Illinois women’s basketball opens season with decisive 35-point victory at home

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Sydney Laput

Junior forward Kendall Bostic goes for the lay up during the second half against LIU on Wednesday.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

After a strong showing in their exhibition game against Quincy, Illinois women’s basketball took on LIU at State Farm Center to open their 2022-23 season, where the Illini won decisively, 70-45.

The Sharks opened their season earlier in the week with a 74-67 victory over Ohio University and were looking to carry that momentum into their first-ever meeting with Illinois.

The Illini started the game strong after winning the tip, with junior forward Kendall Bostic scoring the first bucket of the game off of a feed from sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie.

The string of well executed offensive possessions gave the Illini an early six point lead, but a pair of turnovers allowed LIU to cut the Illinois lead back down to two. 

At the end of the first quarter, the Illini held a nine-point lead thanks to the efforts of junior guard Makira Cook. The transfer from Dayton was getting it done on both ends of the floor, ending the quarter with 10 points, two steals and an offensive rebound. 

The Illini carried their intensity into the second quarter with McKenzie finishing off of an acrobatic offensive rebound on the first play of the quarter. Junior guard Genesis Bryant quickly made her mark in the second quarter with a pair of makes from behind the arc, coupled with a steal on the other end of the floor. 

By half, the Illini lead had jumped to 23 with the help of 10 points from Bryant and an additional six points and four rebounds from McKenzie. However, it was Illinois’ defense that shined the brightest this quarter as it allowed just 8 points the entire quarter. Picking up two steals and allowing just two field goals as a team, the Illini were moving as one on the defensive end of the court.

McKenzie opened up the third quarter for the Illini with a mid-range jumper, giving her four makes on only seven attempts. Leading playmaker for the Illini was sophomore guard Jayla Oden, who earned her fifth assist off of a well-placed feed to Bostic. After a missed free throw by LIU, Bostic reeled in her 10th rebound of the night to earn a double-double with 16 points and counting. 

The Illini defense was stifling once again, as they held LIU to just 7 points in the third quarter. Closing on a 7-0 run stretched their lead to 31 ahead of the final period of play. 

Just 25 seconds into the fourth quarter, LIU freshman guard Kayla Tilus took a hard fall on a fast break scramble and had to be helped off of the court due to injury.

Senior guard Jada Peebles had been a defensive pest all game, but her most impressive moment came midway through the fourth quarter with a block on a LIU midrange fade away. The large lead allowed the Illini to give their bench some minutes and in the absence of Bostic, junior center Aicha Ndour put in six points and grabbed three rebounds in the fourth quarter.  

By the final buzzer, Illinois’ lead had grown to 35, with a final score of 75-40. Bostic was Illinois’ leading scorer (16) and rebounder (11), while Oden led the team in assists with five. Off of the bench, Bryant scored 13 points on 5-7 from the field and 3-5 from the three-point range. 

In Shauna Green’s first game as head coach of Illinois women’s basketball, the Illinois defense was smothering. Accruing 9 steals and 6 blocks on the game, the Illini held LIU to single digit scoring in each of the first three quarters. 

In spite of this, Green believes her defense can be even better, highlighting the amount of offensive rebounds the Illini gave up.

“Holding them to 17 in the first half … that’s what I think we are capable of. You guys will probably think I am crazy but I think we could’ve been even better,” Green said. “The rebounding, we did what we were supposed to do, we’re trying to force people into tough contested shots, but then we’re supposed to box out. Our core value is to hold them to one and done, but we gave up 15 (offensive rebounds).”

With the win tonight, Illinois moves to 1-0 with four days of rest until their next outing. Illinois women’s basketball will be back in action this Sunday at State Farm Center against Alcorn State. 

 

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