Illinois women’s basketball ties last season win total eight games into 2022–23 season

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Sydney Laput

Sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie goes to take a shot during the game against LIU on Nov. 9.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

Following a thriller against Delaware in its first loss of the season, Illinois women’s basketball found itself back on the road for its first away game of the season. In the first game of the final ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Illinois claimed a 92-71 over Pitt to improve its record to 7-1.

Despite the loss, Illinois had several standout performers in its last outing. Sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie led the team in scoring with 22 points on stellar efficiency, while also reeling in 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. Junior guard Makira Cook struggled with her shot (5-18), but found other ways to impact the game as she finished with 16 points, 10 assists and six rebounds with just two turnovers.

Illinois got the first go at offense after winning the tip-off, but a turnover by Cook allowed for an easy transition bucket for Pitt. Cook quickly made up for the turnover, making a made field goal to tie the game before grabbing a steal on the defensive end and getting a transition layup of her own.

McKenzie got her offense going with an and-one layup, which also marked the start of an 11-2 run by the Illini that gave them a 18-7 lead with two minutes left in the first quarter.

A 6-0 run by Pitt in the final minutes of the quarter brought the game to 18-13 at the first break. Cook stuffed the stat sheet in the quarter, scoring nine points while grabbing three rebounds and a steal. As a team, the Illinois defense forced four Pitt turnovers in the period.

Early in the second quarter, Cook and McKenzie each dropped a shot from behind the arc to bring Illinois’ lead to nine points with 8:44 remaining. Continuing to prove she can do it all on the offensive end, Cook picked up an assist on a three-point make by senior guard Jada Peebles before knocking down a shot from midrange.

With 4:36 remaining, junior forward Kendall Bostic picked up back to back assists on kick out threes to Peebles and McKenzie, pushing the Illinois lead to 37-23. Closing the quarter on a 6-0 run of its own, Illinois led 50-30 at halftime.

Efficiency was the highlight of the half for the Illini, making 18 of their 29 shot attempts while hitting seven of their 11 three-point attempts. Cook led all scorers in the game with 18 points, while also leading the game in assists with four. McKenzie was not far behind Cook in scoring, having 15 points on just six shot attempts. Peebles continued her phenomenal efficiency from behind the three point line, making three of her four attempts. Bostic led the game in rebounding with six, including two offensive rebounds.

Pitt opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run, which was met with seven unanswered points from Bostic, Cook and Peebles to give Illinois a game-high 21-point lead. After a quiet first half, junior guard Genesis Bryant came alive in the third quarter, hitting back to back threes including a converted four-point-play. Bryant went on to make two more threes for a total of 13 points in the quarter.

Going into the fourth quarter, Illinois had stretched its lead to 79-55 off the backs of Bryant’s scoring explosion and eight additional points from Peebles. Cook was able to take the quarter off in the scoring department, devoting more of her time to playmaking as she picked up four assists.

McKenzie refused to back down in the fourth quarter, overtaking Cook as the game’s leading scorer with eight points in the first five minutes of play. Peebles knocked in her sixth three of the game with 4:24 remaining, making her the third Illinois player to reach 20-point scoring in the game.

By the final whistle, Illinois’ 14 made three pointers was one shy of tying the school record for made three pointers in a game. For the second game straight, McKenzie led Illinois in scoring, notching a career-high 25 points against Pitt. Cook continued to have an outstanding performance as a scorer and playmaker, totalling 22 points and nine assists while also grabbing five rebounds. Despite a rough shooting night, Bostic was impressive on the glass with five of her 14 total rebounds being offensive rebounds.

Illinois women’s basketball will be back in action this Sunday as they travel to Bloomington to face No. 6 Indiana for its biggest challenge of the season thus far.

 

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