No. 21 Illinois women’s basketball gets back on track with win at Northwestern

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James Hoeck

Guard Genesis Bryant tries to get past Indiana’s defense on Wednesday. Bryant led the team during Sunday’s game against Northwestern resulting in a win for the Illini.

By Conor Blount, Assistant Sports Editor

After falling to No. 6 Indiana by a double-digit margin at home, No. 21 Illinois women’s basketball traveled north for a rematch with Northwestern. Their first meeting ended with a score of 85-79 in favor of the Illini, but it was no easy task, as Northwestern made a sizable push for the lead down the stretch. This time around was a similar story with an even tighter final score, as Illinois squeaked by with a three-point win (67-64).

The Illini had no shortage of stellar performances in their last time out in spite of the loss. Junior guard Genesis Bryant led the team in scoring with 18 points while making three of her five attempts from behind the three-point line. Another model of efficiency was junior forward Kendall Bostic who was Illinois’ second-leading scorer with 17 points, missing just two shots the entire game.

After winning the tipoff, Illinois’ offense stalled on their first possession and ended in a turnover that Northwestern used to score the first points of the game. The Illini got into the swing of things on offense from there, with Bostic picking up eight of the first 14 Illinois points. However, this fluidity only turned into a two-point lead at the end of the first ten minutes as Northwestern was finding offense equally as easily (18-16).

Sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie got the second-quarter offense started for both teams with a made two-point jumper, but the tide shifted from there. Northwestern ripped off 10 unanswered points to take a 26-20 lead midway through the quarter. Illinois found it difficult to break through this deficit until the final minute before halftime when junior guard Makira Cook nailed a three-pointer and Bostic picked up a second-chance layup to cut the lead to one going into halftime (31-30).

Illinois got back into its groove during the third quarter after sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill took the lead with a second-chance layup of her own. The lead blossomed to a game-high six points with 3:15 remaining in the quarter, but the Wildcats cut it to six entering the fourth quarter (47-41).

Despite leading for the entire fourth quarter, Illinois had its fair share of moments where it appeared like the game was lost. With 5:28 left in the game, Bostic was called for an offensive foul that resulted in two points for Northwestern on the offensive end that cut the Illinois lead to just three points  (53-50). Shortly after, the Wildcats earned a pair of free throws that cut the lead to just two points (54-52). A clutch three from senior guard Jada Peebles pushed Northwestern back before Bryant and Bostic combined to push the lead to 62-54 with just over a minute and a half remaining in the game.

Just when the game appeared to be out of hand, the Wildcats responded with back-to-back three point makes to put themselves within one possession of the Illini. With her squad needing an answer, Bryant drilled a step back three to seemingly put the game away once more. But with 10 seconds left, Northwestern was fouled while shooting a layup and was able to make the first free throw then grab the offensive rebound on the second rebound. The Wildcats found their way to the basket with four seconds left to make it a one point game but had to foul Cook to have any hope of getting the ball back. Cook made both of her free throws and it appeared that the game had ended after a half court heave by Northwestern did not drop, but it was ruled there was a foul prior to the shot, and Northwestern was given two more free throws along with another path to victory.

The Wildcats’ luck finally ran out here, as they missed both free throws, and the game came to a close with a final score of 67-64.

For the second game in a row, Bryant led the team in scoring with 18 points. Bryant also picked up a formidable three assists while making 50% of her shots. Bostic notched yet another double-double as her scoring prowess continues to grow more consistent, finishing the night with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Bostic also had a terrific night on defense, as she picked up three blocks and three steals. Off of the bench, Peebles made every single shot she took today including two from deep.

No. 21 Illinois women’s basketball will be back in action this Thursday as they return home to face Purdue.

 

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