Illinois women’s basketball falls short in Big Ten opener to No. 5 Indiana

Guard+Adalia+McKenzie+attempts+to+get+past+Alcorns+defense+on+Nov.+13.%0AMcKenzie+has+been+giving+a+great+performance+for+the+Illini+this+season+however%2C+despite+efforts+the+team+suffered+a+loss+to+Indiana+on+Sunday.

Sidney Malone

Guard Adalia McKenzie attempts to get past Alcorn’s defense on Nov. 13. McKenzie has been giving a great performance for the Illini this season however, despite efforts the team suffered a loss to Indiana on Sunday.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

Following a 21-point victory against Pitt in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Illinois women’s basketball was back on the road for its first conference game of the season against No. 5 Indiana. Despite the best efforts of the Illini, they were unable to come out on top as Indiana claimed a 65-61 victory in Bloomington.

Sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie has been on a tear for the Illini, earning a career-high 25 points against Pitt to follow up on a 22-point performance in the previous game. On top of McKenzie’s impressive scoring, Illinois also saw junior guard Makira Cook nearly earn a double-double with 22 points and nine assists.

After winning the tip, Indiana connected on its first two shots to jump out to an early 4-0 lead. Illinois got on the board after sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill found junior forward Kendall Bostic for a layup, but Indiana responded with a 7-0 run over the course of the next three minutes of play.

A stepback three from Cook appeared to put Illinois’ offense in the right direction with 4:41 remaining in the quarter, but a three from Indiana brought the Hoosiers’ lead back to nine (14-5). A 6-0 run by Illinois in the final minutes of the quarter briefly cut the lead into single digits, before a last-second Hoosier layup gave Indiana a 21-11 lead going into the second quarter.

The Illini were much more fluid on offense in the second quarter, matching their first quarter scoring within the first four minutes of play. Despite this, Illinois was unable to substantially cut into Indiana’s lead for much of the quarter.

With 2:47 remaining in the half, McKenzie grabbed a defensive rebound and traveled the length of the court for a fast-break layup which brought the score to 33-26 in favor of Indiana. A couple of good defensive possessions by the Illini paid off on offense after a made three pointer from Bryant moved them closer to the lead.

A steal by senior guard Jada Peebles in the final minute of the half resulted in yet another three from Cook, cutting the Indiana lead to two points at halftime (34-32).

Perhaps most instrumental in Illinois’ turnaround from the beginning to end of the second quarter was Cook, who had 10 of her 13 points in the quarter and had not missed a three pointer yet. As always, Bostic’s rebounding came up big in the first half as three of her six total rebounds came on the offensive glass. Bryant was also making an impact off of the bench, shooting 2-3 from deep while leading the team with a +9-point differential while she was on the floor.

Coming out of the break, both teams struggled to get any shots to drop until a driving layup from McKenzie tied the game at 34. On the other end of the floor, McKenzie came up with a steal that resulted in free throws for Cook, giving Illinois its first lead of the game at 36-34. Attempting to grow the lead, Cook converted a driving layup that was quickly nullified by an Indiana bucket on the other end.

Despite two blocks from Bostic on the following defensive possession, Indiana ended up with a three point make to regain a one-point lead. Building on its previous two buckets, Indiana proceeded to go on a 7-0 run to gain a 38-45 lead with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter.

Coming out of an Illinois timeout, Cook took it upon herself to bring Illinois back into the game and scored six uninterrupted points in the final 1:35 of the quarter.

The Hoosier’s one point fourth quarter lead did not last long, as Peebles nailed her first three-point attempt of the game to give Illinois a 47-45 lead. Following a tying basket by the Hoosiers, Cook landed a pull up jumper to regain the lead at 49-47. Cook continued to trade buckets with the entire Hoosiers squad, taking the lead for Illinois on three occasions.

The score was locked at 56 for nearly three minutes until Indiana got a layup to drop with 1:42 left in the game. With their backs against the wall, McKenzie secured an offensive rebound and was fouled. Despite being 1-4 from the free throw line until this point, McKenzie knocked both down to tie the game at 58.

On the other end, Indiana also got an opportunity at free throws off of an offensive rebound and retook a two-point lead. With the game on the line, Cook converted an and-one layup to give Illinois a 61-60 lead with 0:49 remaining. After Indiana managed to land a layup and regain the lead, the Illini failed to get anything on the offensive end and were forced to foul.

The Hoosiers split the free throws, giving Illinois another chance to tie or take the lead with seven seconds on the clock. A missed shot by Cook all but sealed the deal for the Illini who had to foul once more with close to no time left in the game. Two more made free throws for Indiana rendered a final score of 65-61. Illinois’ record moved to 7-2 on the season and 0-1 in conference play.

Despite the loss, Cook had a superstar performance. Playing all but one minute of the game, Cook finished with 33 of the Illini’s 61 points on incredible efficiency, scoring on 48% of her shot attempts (12-25) compared to the rest of the team’s 30.6% mark (11-36). Cook also shot 75% from three point range (3-4), made all of her free throws (6-6) and grabbed five rebounds. Bostic was also huge in this game, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking four shots while making the most of her shot attempts (4-5).

Illinois women’s basketball will be back at home after a four-game away stint this Wednesday against Rutgers.

 

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