Illinois women’s basketball comes up short in Ann Arbor despite strong third quarter

Junior+forward+Kendall+Bostic+putting+herself+in+front+of+the+ball+after+a+Michigan+state+free+throw+on+Jan.+23.+Bostic+and+guard+Genesis+Bryant+carried+in+points+for+the+Illini+during+Thursdays+game+against+Michigan+however+the+Illini+were+unable+to+secure+the+win.

Angel Saldivar

Junior forward Kendall Bostic putting herself in front of the ball after a Michigan state free throw on Jan. 23. Bostic and guard Genesis Bryant carried in points for the Illini during Thursday’s game against Michigan however the Illini were unable to secure the win.

By Conor Blount, Assistant Sports Editor

Coming off of a decisive home win over Michigan State last weekend, Illinois women’s basketball took a trip north for a matchup against No. 18 Michigan. The Illini fell behind early and although they were able to get some points back in the second half, Michigan ultimately came out on top with a final score of 74-57.

Junior guard Makira Cook led Illinois in scoring in their outing against Michigan State, totaling 26 points with perfect shooting from the free throw stripe. On top of the impressive slew of points, Cook grabbed four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Also breaching the 20-point mark was junior guard Genesis Bryant who finished with 21 points on ridiculous efficiency, making three of her six shots from behind the arc and all eight of her free throw attempts.

Michigan came down with the tipoff, but things quickly shifted in favor of Illinois after a traveling violation on the Wolverines. However, the Illini failed to capitalize on the turnover along with the three offensive trips that followed. By the time a layup from junior forward Kendall Bostic connected with 7:21 remaining in the first quarter, Illinois had fallen behind 6-2. Within the next minute, the Wolverine lead blossomed to eight points thanks to efficient paint scoring. Bryant responded with seven unanswered points of her own to bring the score to 10-9, but Illinois’ offense stalled from there. Fortunately for the Illini, failing to score for the final 4:41 of the first quarter only resulted in Michigan taking a 15-9 lead.

With the game still well within reach for Illinois, the Wolverines decided enough was enough. Ripping out a 21-4 run that lasted until the 3:31 mark of the second half (36-14). In the final minutes the Illini began to string together some points, including a buzzer-beating layup by Bostic, but unfortunately only cut the Michigan lead to 19 points going into halftime (41-22).

Through 20 minutes, Cook, Illinois’ leading scorer this season, had been held to zero points. In the absence of Cook’s output, Bryant stepped up for a team-high 10 points while also dishing out three assists. Bostic was shooting the ball effectively, having made three of her five shot attempts, but having a second leading scorer with six points is unlike this season’s Illinois team.

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    Michigan was the first to score in the second half, however, the Illini responded by stringing together six unanswered points that forced the Wolverines to take a timeout (43-28). Whatever was discussed during the break worked for Michigan as they immediately scored on the following play. The Illini remained resilient though, continuing to cut the lead down to as low as 10 points in the final minutes of the third quarter (49-39). However, the Wolverines ended the quarter on a 6-2 run to reclaim a comfortable 14-point lead going into the final period of play.

    A pair of made free throws from sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill and a three point make from Cook brought the score to 55-46, the first time the Illini trailed by single digits since early in the second quarter. Illinois hovered around this deficit for much of the fourth quarter, cutting the lead as low as eight points on two occasions, but could not quite get over the hump. With a final score of 74-57, Illinois earned just its sixth loss of the year and dropped to 7-5 in conference play.

    Bostic and Bryant each shouldered a hefty scoring load during this game, each finishing with a team-high 18 points. Each had their fair share of other responsibilities on the court, as Bryant picked up a game-high six assists and three steals while Bostic grabbed five rebounds and two blocks.

    Returning home this Sunday, Illinois women’s basketball will be looking to get back on track at 2 p.m. against Minnesota.

     

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