Illinois women’s basketball closes home stand with fifth consecutive 20-point victory

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Sidney Malone

Forward Kendall Bostic keeps the ball away from the opposing team during a game against Alcorn on Nov. 13. The Illini remain undefeated after yesterday’s match against Oakland and will be hitting the road until their return to home on Dec. 7.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

Following its 39-point victory against Evansville last Saturday, Illinois women’s basketball secured a 84-55 victory against Oakland in its final home game until Dec. 7. The undefeated Illini (5-0) now face a three-game away stretch, including two outings at the Daytona Beach Classic.

Last Saturday was much of the same for the Illini, who have claimed dominant victories in every game this season. Finishing with six different double-digit scorers, Illinois also saw a dominant defensive performance from junior forward Kendall Bostic, who finished with 10 rebounds and six blocks.

Despite failing to come down with the tipoff, a good contest from sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill gave Illinois the ball with an even score. Sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie got the Illini offense started with a layup off of a pass from sophomore guard Jayla Oden. 

A couple of turnovers by Illinois allowed Oakland to jump out to an early lead, but a steal by junior guard Makira Cook combined with a three-point make from Oden on the other end gave the lead back to Illinois at 8-7. Cook continued to get things done for the Illini, converting an and-one and notching a shot from behind the arc en route to a 12-point first quarter.

After drawing a charge on the defensive end, junior guard Genesis Bryant traveled the length of the court in just four seconds to drop a buzzer-beating layup, pushing Illinois’ lead to 10 (23-13) going into the second quarter.

Cooks found senior guard Jada Peebles in the corner to open the second quarter, but Oakland immediately responded with a three of its own. Just two minutes after checking in, junior center Aicha Ndour picked up a big block to prevent Oakland from getting an easy layup. 

The Illini lead appeared to be dwindling as the Golden Grizzlies went on a 7-2 run, but a layup off of an offensive rebound from Shoup-Hill and a three from Peebles quickly nullified Oakland’s progress. With the score at 32-22, Illinois was given two extra chances to extend its lead after Bostic managed to reel in two offensive rebounds, converting a layup after her second. 

Closing the half on a 13-4 run gave Illinois a 40-26 lead at the break. Cook still led the way in scoring with 14, with Oden (7) and Peebles (6) making significant contributions as well. Bostic and Shoup-Hill each had seven rebounds with four of Bostic’s being on the offensive end. The Illini had no individual standouts on the playmaking end, instead operating as a team with seven assists being split across five individuals. 

Illinois began the second half on defense, forcing a miss that was pulled in by Bostic before Oden got the offense going on the other end with a layup. By the 5:55 mark, the Illinois lead had grown to 20 (52-32), forcing the Golden Grizzlies to take a timeout to regroup. Coming out of the break, Oakland was able to generate an open layup, but Illinois quickly responded with another three from Peebles. 

A steal by Bryant on Oakland’s last possession of the quarter resulted in an easy layup for McKenzie, giving Illinois a 63-39 lead going into the final quarter of play.

Early in the fourth quarter, Peebles dropped her fourth three pointer to earn back-to-back games with double digit scoring. Shortly after, Ndour picked up her second block but was unable to secure the rebound, resulting in free throws for Oakland due to a foul by Bryant. A couple of possessions later, Ndour earned these points back with her first bucket of the game coming off an offensive rebound.

Illinois’ lead maxed out at 33 during this quarter, but a 4-0 run by Oakland in the final minutes of the game resulted in a final score of 84-55, giving Illinois its fifth consecutive 20-point win. In just the first year of head coach Shauna Green’s tenure, the Illini moved to 5-0 for the first time since the 2014-15 season. 

Once again, the Illini had standout performances from top to bottom. While Cook led the group in scoring with 18 points, Illinois had three other players in double figures and Bryant knocking at the door with nine. Bryant made up for a subpar shooting night (3-10) by taking on a larger playmaking role, finishing the night with a season-high six assists. Bostic led the way on the glass with ten rebounds, but Shoup-Hill was not far behind with eight.

Green commended Bryant’s ability to adapt and find meaningful ways to impact the game even when her shot is not falling.

“I think that’s what great players do,” Green said. “We talk about this as a program all the time, you’re gonna have nights where the ball doesn’t go in, but you have to hang your hat on every-night consistency in your defense and rebounding.”

Illinois women’s basketball will be back in action this Friday at the Daytona Beach Invitational taking on Charlotte before facing Delaware the following day. 

 

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