No. 21 Illinois falls to No. 6 Indiana despite fourth quarter surge

Junior+guard+Genesis+Bryant+goes+for+a+layup+against+Indiana+on+Wednesday.+The+shot+was+good%2C+making+the+score+40-47+in+favor+of+Indiana.

Jacob Slabosz

Junior guard Genesis Bryant goes for a layup against Indiana on Wednesday. The shot was good, making the score 40-47 in favor of Indiana.

By Conor Blount, Associate Sports Editor

Following a comfortable road win over Minnesota last Sunday, No. 21 Illinois women’s basketball returned home for its second matchup of the season against No. 6 Indiana. While the first meeting ended in the favor of the Hoosiers, Illinois played them well. A final score of 65-61 against the (then) fifth best program in the country was nothing but encouraging for an Illini team entering conference play.

Since then Indiana has had some of its roughest games of the season, featuring a loss to Michigan State and being pushed to overtime by Nebraska. In the same time period, the Illini picked up eight wins (five against Big Ten opponents) while losing just one game to No. 3 Ohio State. Despite putting up a valiant effort, Illinois ended up falling to the Hoosiers once again with a final score of 83-72.

Junior guard Makira Cook makes a layup in the fourth quarter, making the score 74-66 in favor of Indiana (Jacob Slabosz)

The Illini took care of business in their last time out, appearing to not be phased by playing on the road. Junior guard Makira Cook led the team in scoring with 20 points while also picking up four assists and a steal. Just two points behind Cook was junior guard Genesis Bryant, who led the team in playmaking with five assists. Graduate center Geovana Lopes also played a vital role for the Illini, grabbing a team high ten rebounds off of the bench.

Sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill started the game off right for Illinois, intercepting the tipoff that set up Cook for the first points of the game. Fighting off an efficient Hoosier offense, sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie scored the next six for Illinois to give the Illini a 8-6 edge with 7:22 remaining.

In the following minutes, the Illini managed to keep Indiana at bay but were unable to grow their lead by much until a three pointer from Bryant brought the score to 17-10. After a strong defensive possession, Illinois took their largest lead of the game due to an offensive rebound and tough finish by Shoup-Hill.

After making some adjustments during a timeout, Indiana closed the quarter on an 8-2 run that cut Illinois’ lead to just three points (21-18).

At the 8:07 mark in the second quarter, Cook set up Bryant for her second three of the night (26-21). From there an offensive dry spell stuck the Illini, who did not score for over four minutes of playtime. During that time the Hoosiers strung together six points to tie the game at 26-26. A free throw by McKenzie broke the streak briefly, but continued scoring from Indiana resulted in the Illini falling behind at 30-27.

A quick baseline drive by McKenzie saw her defender to jump on a pump-fake making for an easy basket. McKenzie continued to draw contact, drilling two free throws to tie the game at 31 with 2:16 to go in the half. Indiana closed the half on a six point run resulting in halftime score of 37-31.

Defensive adjustments by Indiana gave the Illini serious trouble in the second quarter, totaling just 10 points in the period after getting 21 in the first quarter. Leading Illinois on offense was McKenzie, whose 13 points led all players in scoring. McKenzie was not just impacting the game with her scoring as she had two of Illinois’ three steals in the half. Cook struggled shooting the ball in the first half, having made just two of her 10 shot attempts, but was doing an excellent job facilitating as she had five assists to zero turnovers. Despite having a nine-point lead turn into a six-point deficit, the Illini were taking care of the ball very well as they had just four turnovers compared to Indiana’s six.

Bryant started the second half scoring with a smooth baseline hook shot and an acrobatic layup that quickly brought the game within one possession (37-35). However, an even quicker 6-0 run by Indiana put the Illini in an even deeper hole than before.

In spite of exciting moments that each appeared to shift the momentum in the way of Illinois, the Hoosiers relentlessly increased their lead to 13 with 3:24 to go in the third quarter (53-40). The bleeding continued all the way to the start of the fourth quarter, where Indiana held a 67-51 lead.

Illinois managed to prevent the Hoosiers from increasing their lead for much of the final quarter, but were also unable to significantly cut into their lead. A pretty dish from Bryant to junior forward Kendall Bostic and subsequent turnover by Indiana got State Farm Center on its feet before Shoup-Hill canned a three pointer to make it a 71-63 game that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

The Illini brought the lead as low as eight points down the stretch, but untimely and-one conversions by the Hoosiers ultimately kept Illinois at bay for a final score of 83-72.

Bryant led the Illini in scoring with 18 points, despite having to exit early due to picking up five fouls. As per usual, Bryant was deadly from behind the arc as she hit three of her five shot attempts. Not far behind in scoring was Bostic, who managed to get 17 points and 11 rebounds while also battling foul trouble for much of the game (4 fouls). Illinois had zero bench points today, an uncommon occurrence even for the starter-heavy Illini.

Echoing her season long mantra of focusing on going 1-0 every game, head coach Shauna Green believes tonight will serve as a teaching moment rather than a morale killer.

“This is a definite learning experience, no doubt about it,” said Green. “We all wanted to win this game and I thought we were capable of winning it but we faced a really good team and they made more plays than us. That’s the game of basketball. Now it’s about how are we going to respond? How are we going to learn from this? How are we going to get better?”

Illinois will be looking to get back in the win column this Sunday with a trip to Northwestern.

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