Live from the Assembly Hall: Illini vs. Wake Forest
Final: Illinois 95, Wake Forest 82
The Illini evened their record in ACC/Big Ten Challenge games at 3-3 with Thursday night's win against the Demon Deacons.
Big night for Illini senior forward Karisma Penn, who scored 30 points -- three shy of her career high -- and grabbed 10 rebounds. Penn was 9 of 12 from the field and 12 of 14 from the foul line.
Ivory Crawford added 26 points and Kersten Magrum, returning from a shoulder separation, contributed 11 points and six rebounds off the bench.
The Illini trailed 70-68 before going on a 13-3 run to take an 81-73 lead. Illinois later scored nine unanswered points to pull away to a 94-78 lead.
Illinois (4-2) returns to action at 1 p.m. Saturday against visiting Colorado.
A reminder that our weekly chat on Illini women's basketball takes place every Friday at 11 a.m. at IlliniHQ.com. You can submit questions/comments at any time.
Illinois 62, Wake Forest 60
11:42 left in second half
Hero: Lakevia Boykin
If Wake Forest pulls this one out, the senior guard will be a primary season, Boykin has scored 21 points, hitting 8 of 16 shots, including 5 of 6 from three-point range.
Goat: Illini interior defenders
Demon Deacons forward Dearica Hamby and center Sandra Garcia have combined to score 29 points. Illinois' interior defense has been soft and had no answer for those two.
What I'm thinking:
-- At this point, the Illini are barely holding off Wake Forest. But they are holding them off. Every time the Deacons appear poised to take the lead, Illinois answers.
-- Amber Moore picked up her fourth foul with 18:21 left. The Illini need their junior guard, particularly her long-range threat.
-- Wake Forest point guard Chelsea Dougla s also is playing with four fouls.
-- If the Illini lose, they will experience their first losing streak this season. After each of their previous defeats, they've bounced back with a win.
Halftime: Illinois 48, Wake Forest 42
Hero: Illini long-range shooters
The Illini have their long-range stroke working. Illinois is 7 of 15 from three-point range, and Amber Moore isn't doing all the damage. Five different UI players have hit treys, with Moore and Ivory Crawford each connecting twice.
Goat: Illini defenders on Lakevia Boykin.
The Wake Forest guard already had 18 points. Boykin is 7 of 11 from the field and has hit all four of her three-point attempts.
What I'm thinking:
-- The Illini have been forced to cope with foul trouble at times this season, and tonight is shaping up that way, too. Ivory Crawford, who leads Illinois in scoring with 12 points, has three fouls. So does Moore (eight points).
-- Terrific return for Kersten Magrum. Playing for the first time since separating her left shoulder in the second game of the season, the Illinii junior forward has hit both of her shot attempts, including a three-pointer. Magrum has contributed five points and one rebound in 11 minutes.
-- Alexis Smith is up to nine assists. The Illini sophomore's career high is 13, set against Cleveland State on Nov. 18.
-- The videoboard is a fun view when the camera focuses on fans during time outs. Their reactions are usually to smile and wave. One little boy was particularly excited to see himself on the board. But what's up with the group that covered their eyes when the camera found them?
Illinois 20, Wake Forest 11
11:49 left in first half
Hero: Alexis Smith
The Illini point guard is doing what a good point guard should: fueling her team's attack. Smith has five assists and two points.for a UI offense shoolting 47.1 percent. After a rocky performance in the UI's last game against Iowa State, Smith is back on the beam to start this one.
Goat: Wake Forest ball handlers.
The Demon Deacons already have seven turnovers.
What I'm thinking:
-- Good to see Kersten Magrum playing again. After missing the last three games with a left shoulder separation, the Illini forward entered tonight's game with 16:22 left in the first half. Then she hit her first shot at 13:05. Magrum is playing with the shoulder wrapped.
-- Wake Forest appears to be the most skilled opponent yet to come into the Assembly Hall.
-- At one points, 6-2 Illini post was coveraging 5-5 Wake Forest guard Chelsea Douglas on the perimeter. Douglas might be the quickest player on the court tonight.
-- The size of the crowd appears to be what it's been at other home games this season. The Illini have averaged 1,553 in three home dates.
Just got the startling lineup for Illinois. It's the same one that coach Matt Bollant has used since starting forward Kersten Magrum was injured: McKenzie Piper, Amber Moore, Karisma Penn, Ivory Crawford, and Alexis Smith.
A quick update on Kersten Magrum. The Illini junior forward is in uniform tonight and going through pregame warmups, so it appears she has been cleared to play. Magrum suffered a left shoulder separation in Illinois' second game on Nov. 15 and hasn't played since. Illini coach Matt Bollant said earlier this week that Magrum might be available for tonight's game.
Welcome to our live report from the Assembly Hall on tonight's women's basketball game between the Illini and Wake Forest.
The Illini enter this ACC/Big Ten Challenge contest with a 3-2 record, while the Demon Deacons are 2-4 and have lost their last four games. It's only the second meeting ever between these teams, with the other also in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. In 2009, Illinois roared back from a 17-point halftime deficit to win going away, 65-50, at Wake Forest.
Current Illini senior Karisma Penn not only was in a UI uniform for that one, but the then-freshman contributed 15 points, all in the second half.
This is the second and final night of the women's ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and there's no wiggle room for the Big Ten if it is to win this year's bragging rights. On Wednesday night, ACC teams won five of the eight Challenge games. There are four more scheduled for tonight. The Big Ten would need to sweep them all to win the Challenge.
The ACC leads the all-time Challenge 4-0-1 , with the tie coming last year. The Illini are 2-3 all-time in Challenge games.
We'll find out tonight if Illini forward Kersten Magrum has been cleared to return to action. The junior suffered a left shoulder separation in the second game of the season Nov. 15 against Bradley. At that time, UI coach Matt Bollant indicated that Magrum would be sidelined for about two weeks. Tonight is exactly two weeks since the injury. With Wake Forest having a pair of 6-foot-3 players in its projected starting lineup, Illinois could use a player with the 6-1 Magrum's height and rebounding ability.
Illinois entered the week ranked ninth nationally in assists per game (19.6) and 22nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.1). Individually, Illini junior guard Amber Moore is fifth in three-point field goals made per game (3.6) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.0). Sophomore point guard Alexis Smith is 11th in assists per game (6.8). And Penn ranks 14th in blocked shots per game (3.2), 34th in rebounds per game (10.6) and 16th in double-doubles (3).
When Bollant coached at Wisconsin-Green Bay, he was 3-0 against the ACC teams, with wins against Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.), and Virginia.
Bollant said this week that he expected Wake Forest to push the pace, just as the Illini always try to do, so we'll see if this is a high-scoring game. So far, the Demon Deacons are averaging only 58.8 points per game. You can attribute some of that to 37.9 percent shooting as well as some difficult opponents, including No. 2 Connecticut and No. 14 Purdue.
The Illini are averaging 75.2 points and shooting 41.3 percent.
We'll update this report midway through each half and at the end of each half, so be sure to check back in.