CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- It was billed as a contest between two of the best backcourts in the nation. It was no contest.
Dee Brown, Luther Head and Deron Williams combined for 26 points and 12 assists in the first half as No. 3 Illinois used a 21-point halftime advantage to cruise to a 91-73 victory over top-ranked Wake Forest in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
The win was just the second ever for the Fighting Illini against a top-ranked team in 21 tries. Illinois beat a No. 1 Michigan State team led by Magic Johnson, 57-55, in January 1979. The win also was the 35th straight for Illinois against a non-conference foe at Assembly Hall.
"Twenty seven assists, we shared the ball well tonight," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "And Dee got hot in the first half. We talk about seizing the moment, and we did that tonight."
In the first half, Brown connected on 7-of-9 shots, Head knocked down half of his eight attempts and Williams, who was limited to just eight minutes because of two early fouls, had six assists. Forward Roger Powell scored 17 in the half.
Wake Forest's backcourt of Chris Paul, Justin Gray and Taron Downey was held to 13 points on 5-of-20 shooting.
"Deron is our best player, and when he went out (with the two fouls just two minutes into the game), it was my chance to lead the team," Brown said. "I had to step up and show leadership."
"It's a joy and a honor to play in an atmosphere like this. The win was a big accomplishment. We found out we're a pretty good team."
Illinois never trailed in the half and took a 54-33 lead into the locker room. In five games thus far, the Fighting Illini have trailed for just under eight minutes. Their lead ballooned to as much as 32 points, 81-49, with just over eight minutes left.
Illinois, which committed a season-low six turnovers, continually beat the Demon Deacons down the floor for easy looks in the first half, resulting in 60 percent (15-for-25) shooting, including 8-of-16 from the arc.
Wake shot just 36 percent (14-of-39) and was outrebounded, 18-10. The defensive performance was disappointing for the Deacons, who have stressed defense after allowing opponents to shoot an ACC-worst 45 percent last season. They entered the game holding opponents to 39.4 percent.
Brown finished with 16 points and seven assists, Head had 16 and five and Williams, the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, had 8 and 11. Powell finished with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting for Illinois, which shot 56 percent (38-of-68) and held Wake Forest to 40 percent (27-of-68).
Paul finished with 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting and handed out six assists for Wake Forest, which lost for the first time in six games in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and had its seven-game win streak against Big Ten opponents snapped.
Gray, who earned Preseason NIT MVP honors with back-to-back 21-point outings last week, was held to 11 points on 3-of-16 shooting. Eric Williams led the Deacons with 18 points.