Illinois women’s basketball survives late comeback at Butler for ninth win of season


Sidney Malone

Guard Marika Cook rushes the court to make a play during a game against Alcorn on Nov. 13. Cook managed to give the Illini a lead with layups during the match against Butler on Sunday resulting in a win for the Illini.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

Following first-year head coach Shauna Green’s first Big Ten victory, Illinois women’s basketball went back on the road for more non-conference action.

While looking dominant at times, crucial scoring runs by Butler led to a final score of 65-63.

Illinois looked dominant in its last outing against Rutgers, maintaining a double-digit lead for much of the game. The large lead could mostly be attributed to heavy scoring performances from junior guard Makira Cook and sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie. Each showed out in other aspects of the game as well, as McKenzie pulled in a season-high 13 rebounds while Cook led the game in assists (5).

After winning the tip, Illinois came up empty on offense despite getting a second chance due to an offensive rebound from sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill. After standing firm on the defensive end, the Illini were the first to get on the board after junior forward Kendall Bostic dropped in a layup

With 5:15 remaining in the quarter, sophomore guard Jayla Oden appeared to give Illinois some breathing room as she brought the score to 7-4, but back-to-back three-point makes for Butler quickly flipped the lead upside down. Butler managed to keep the Illini at bay for the remainder of the quarter, maintaining a 13-11 lead at the end of the first ten minutes.

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    Junior center Aicha Ndour was making things happen off of the bench as she dropped back-to-back baskets for Illinois to bridge the quarters before picking up an assist on a jumper for McKenzie. With the game tied at 15 a piece, free throws for Bostic combined with a three-point make for junior guard Genesis Bryant swung the game back in Illinois’ favor.

    Another three from Bryant and a midrange jumper from McKenzie gave Illinois a 25-15 lead and capped off a 12-0 run for the Illini. This double-digit lead was maintained until the final two minutes of the quarter when Butler scored five unanswered points, bringing the score to 29-24 at halftime.

    Illinois’ scoring in the first half was extremely uniform, with seven scorers and none of them having more than Bryant’s six points. Shoup-Hill and McKenzie were dominating the glass in the first half, as Shoup-Hill led the game and tied a season high with eight rebounds while McKenzie continued to showcase her improved rebounding abilities with seven rebounds.

    Illinois opened the third quarter looking to gain back the ground it lost during the final moments of the half. Back-to-back layups for Cook gave Illinois a 35-26 lead with 7:28 remaining, which was followed by back-to-back jumpers from Cook a couple of possessions later, bringing the score to 42-29. Illinois’ lead was as large as 15 in the quarter, but a couple of costly turnovers by the Illini allowed Butler to close on a 12-3 run and bring the score to 48-42 going into the final period of play.

    Butler carried its momentum into the fourth quarter, quickly scoring five unanswered points to bring Illinois’ lead to just one point. An offensive rebound allowed Bostic to put Illinois on the board, but Butler answered back with four points of its own, claiming a 51-50 lead after trailing by as much as 15 points.

    McKenzie was the one to take charge for Illinois, as she found senior guard Jada Peebles for a three point make to regain the lead, before grabbing a steal on the other end and dropping a transition layup.

    Peebles picked up a steal on the next defensive possession which resulted in a made jump shot for Cook on the offensive end, bringing the score to 57-51 with 6:03 remaining in the game. Another jumper for Cook and a layup for Peebles brought the Illini lead back to double figures, seemingly putting the game away. However, back-to-back three point makes by Butler brought the Bulldogs well within striking distance at 61-57.

    Empty offensive possessions down the stretch by Illinois resulted in just a two point lead with 0:19 remaining and Butler with the ball. When it was needed the most, Peebles had the best defensive play of the game as she blocked Butler’s last shot attempt and reeled in the rebound to close out the game.

    Cook and McKenzie were once again standouts for the Illini. Cook scored 20 points for the fourth game in a row, while also grabbing four rebounds and leading the team in assists (3). McKenzie continued her hot rebounding streak to secure her third double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds) and fourth game with double digit rebounding in the last five games.

    Illinois women’s basketball will be back in action next Sunday at Missouri for the McBride Homes Braggin’ Rights game.


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