Illinois women’s basketball looking to bounce back with trip to Evanston

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Jacob Slabosz

Junior guard Genesis Bryant makes a layup against Indiana on Wednesday, making the score 40-47 in favor of Indiana. During six of the eight games in which she was a starter, Bryant scored 18 or more points.

By Conor Blount, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 21 Illinois women’s basketball will be back on the road this Sunday for a rematch against Northwestern. The first meeting ended with a final score of 85-79 in favor of the Illini despite a sizable second-half run by the Wildcats.

Led by head coach Joe McKeown, Northwestern is off to a 6-12 start with an 0-8 mark in conference play. This is a sizable step back for the Wildcats who totaled 12 losses in the entire 2021–22 season. Since their last meeting with the Illini, the Wildcats have lost four straight including a 30-point loss to No. 2 Ohio State.

Illinois has not fared much better, having lost two of its three games in the last two weeks, and although they have put up a much better fight than Northwestern, a loss is a loss all the same. 

Despite these struggles, Illinois’ season-long rapport of excellence was enough to offset the recent losses against top programs and earn a spot in the Associated Press Top-25 rankings for the first time in over two decades during this stretch. Initially ranked as the 24th-best team in the country, Illinois moved to No. 21 after a win at Minnesota and this game against Northwestern will play a crucial role in where Illinois finds itself in the next rankings. 

Junior guard Genesis Bryant has been on a tear for Illinois as of late, scoring 18 or more points in six of her eight games since becoming a starter. Not only is Bryant scoring in bunches, but she is also doing it in an extremely efficient fashion with season shooting splits of 48/49/91.

On top of the jump to stardom by Bryant, another key piece to Illinois’ continued success has been the emergence of junior forward Kendall Bostic. As one of the top rebounders in all of college basketball, Bostic often encounters the rare problem of missing out on double-doubles due to a lack of points. However, Bostic has upped her scoring output drastically as of late, having 15 or more points in four of her last five outings including a career-high 27 points at Ohio State. 

If Bryant and Bostic can continue their stretch of dominance against the Wildcats, the Illini will have a good shot at getting back into the win column at 2 p.m. this Sunday.

 

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