Illinois women’s basketball outlasts Northwestern, extends win-streak to seven

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Sidney Malone

Forward Kendall Bostic reaches out for the ball during a game against Alcorn on Nov. 13. The Illini maintain their win-streak within the new year with a 85-79 victory against Northwestern on Thursday.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

Coming off an upset win over No. 12 Iowa in front of an energized crowd, Illinois welcomed Northwestern for their fifth Big Ten matchup of the season. The Illini jumped out to an early lead that they held for all forty minutes of play, resulting in a final score of 85-79. 

In the win over Iowa, a lot of the Illini came up big. Junior guard Genesis Bryant led Illinois in scoring with a career-high 24 points while missing just two shots all game. Junior forward Kendall Bostic had a career-high in scoring as well, making all of her seven shot attempts for 17 total points while also grabbing 12 rebounds.   

After losing the tip, Illinois forced a miss on the Wildcats’ first possession but failed to capitalize and gave up a turnover on the other end. The Illini picked up a multitude of offensive rebounds over the opening minutes of the game (4), resulting in a 7-0 lead with 6:26 remaining. 

Despite finally getting a shot to fall on their next possession, Northwestern was quickly forced to call a timeout and regroup after sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill and Bostic pushed the Illinois lead to ten. 

The Wildcats ended the quarter on a 9-5 run, chipping away about half of Illinois’ lead for a score of 20-14 going into the second quarter. Shoup-Hill led the team in scoring with six points on perfect shooting from three point distance. Bostic picked up an impressive six rebounds in the period to lead. As a whole, the Illini had assisted one another on six of their eight made shot attempts. 

A quick three pointer for Northwestern briefly made it a one possession game before a tough finish by junior guard Makira Cook gave Illinois a bit of breathing room (22-17). After drawing an extra defender on her drive, sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie dropped the ball off to an unguarded Bostic for an easy two points. 

A tough finish through contact and subsequent free throw from McKenzie plus a three point make by Cook resulted in Illinois’ biggest lead of the game at 32-19 with 5:36 remaining in the second quarter. 

A three pointer by Bryant off an inbounds play was followed by consecutive three point makes by Shoup-Hill pushed the score to 41-24. After a miss by the Wildcats, Cook stepped into a transition midrange shot for Illinois’ final points of the half. 

At halftime, Illinois held a comfortable 45-27 lead with major contributions from all five starters. Shoup-Hill led the team in scoring with 12 points on a blistering 4-6 mark from behind the arc. Cook was also having an efficient night on from three point territory as she had made two of her three shots from distance. Bostic was two points shy of having a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds. 

Halfway through the third quarter, the Wildcats had chipped six points off Illinois’ lead for a score of 54-42. A dry spell of offense for the Illini allowed for a 7-3 run for Northwestern, cutting the lead to single digits for the first time since midway through the second quarter. 

By the end of the third quarter, Illinois’ 18 point lead had shrunk to just seven (63-56) due to a flurry of offense by the Wildcats and a dip in shot making and costly turnovers by the Illini. 

Illinois opened the fourth quarter with a turnover that resulted in a layup for the Wildcats on the other end, but Bryant quickly erased this with a three on the offensive end. However, Northwestern continued to inch closer and closer to overtaking the Illini as they converted with ease in the paint. 

With 3:34 remaining in the game McKenzie picked up a steal at the top of the key and took it all the way for a layup, pushing Illinois’ lead to 79-71. A four point swing in favor of the Wildcats resulted in a score of 81-77 with just over a minute to play. After a missed drive by Cook, Bostic came down with a clutch offensive rebound before converting a three point play to all but seal the game for Illinois. 

The Wildcats failed to win the free throw game, resulting in an 85-79 victory for Illinois. The win pushed Illinois’ record to 14-2 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play. 

The Illini saw impressive scoring outputs from across the board, having five double digit scorers in Cook (23), Bryant (16), Bostic (15), Shoup-Hill (14) and McKenzie (14). Bostic led the team on the boards with a season-high 16 rebounds, with eight being on the offensive end. Bryant led the team in playmaking with a formidable five assists along with an impressive four assists from Cook.

When commenting on her game sealing offensive rebound and three point play, Bostic described such situations as being a major part of her game. 

“That was just me doing what I do,” Bostic said. “I mean I try and get the rebound, hunt the ball down, got an and-one. Makira (Cook) had a really good drive and I was just in the right spot at the right time.”

Illinois women’s basketball will be back in action this Sunday in Columbus for a matchup against No. 3 Ohio State.

 

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