Unbelievable 20-0 scoring run propels Illinois women’s basketball to first win against Nebraska in five years


Caden Bargowski

Junior guard Makira Cook passes to junior forward Kendall Bostic against Minnesota on Sunday. On Thursday, Illinois beat Nebraska for the first time in five years, in large part due to a strong performance from Cook, as well as sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie. The duo combined for a total of 41 points.

By Conor Blount, Assistant Sports Editor

After earning a season sweep over Minnesota thanks to a 69-62 home win, Illinois women’s basketball was back on the road for its first of two late-season duels with Nebraska. The two programs’ recent history has been dominated by the Cornhuskers, with Illinois’ most recent win against them being in January of 2017. Despite trailing for almost the entire game, an electric 20-0 run spanning from the end of the third quarter into the fourth quarter resulted in an Illinois victory. Ending with a final score of 72-64, Illinois’ record improved to 19-6 overall and 9-5 in the Big Ten.

Illinois’ last home matchup against Minnesota was, counterintuitively, much more hard fought than its game in Minneapolis was. Finishing with a deceptively large seven-point margin, the Illini required incredibly clutch performances from junior guard Makira Cook and sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie to pull out the win. The two combined for an astonishing 41 points to go along with Cook dishing out a team-high five assists and McKenzie being just one rebound shy of a double-double (9).

The tipoff came down in Cornhusker hands and despite Illinois’ best effort of defense, Nebraska claimed an early 2-0 lead on its first possession. The Illini fired back with a made three-point basket from junior guard Genesis Bryant but Nebraska answered with a three of its own on the next play. The Illini strung together an 8-0 run to take a six-point lead by the 5:51 mark, but proceeded to score just four points in the rest of the quarter.

Inefficient offense allowed Nebraska to crawl its way back in front and hold an 18-15 lead going into the second quarter. Illinois got back into its groove momentarily, as Cook dropped in a layup on the Illini’s first offensive possession, but things quickly went south. Nebraska’s lead jumped to a game-high seven points and despite an answer from Cook, the Cornhuskers got two points back in transition not even 10 seconds later.

The Nebraska offense was firing on all cylinders, growing its lead as high as 12 points with 0:44 remaining in the half (37-25). Fortunately for the Illini, Cook made the most of those final seconds, going on a personal 4-0 run to ensure Illinois was not trailing by double digits when the third quarter started (37-29).

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Cook sported the most first-half points for the Illini by far (12), having twice as many points as the next-highest scorers. On top of this, Cook was stuffing the stat sheet in every other category, earning an impressive three rebounds, three assists, one steal and a block. Despite a bit of foul trouble (2 PF), junior forward Kendall Bostic was well on her way to yet another double-double, totaling six points and four rebounds in 13 minutes of playtime.

The second half began with a strong defensive stand for the Illini that was rewarded with two free throws by McKenzie on the other end. Inching the Illini even closer was sophomore guard Jayla Oden, whose second-chance layup cut the Nebraska lead to just four points (37-33). Unfortunately for the Illini, this was followed up by a 6-1 Nebraska run, pushing its lead even higher than it was to begin the half.

Nebraska appeared to be running away with the game when its lead reached 11 points at the 4:44 mark, but a layup from McKenzie and a three-point make from senior guard Jada Peebles put Illinois right back in striking range (47-41). However, in accordance with the trends of the game, Nebraska immediately built its lead back up to 10. The Illini were finally able to make real progress during the final 90 seconds of the quarter, where Bostic got the Illinois offense fired up with back-to-back layups and a converted and-one. Oden got the memo and dropped a layup through contact for an and-one of her own, cutting Nebraska’s lead to just one possession heading into the fourth quarter (51-49).

The Illini carried this momentum with them for the final 12 minutes, with Oden sinking a jumper to tie the game before an and-one layup by McKenzie gave Illinois its first lead since the first quarter (54-51). Another bucket from Oden that capped off a 15-0 Illinois run forced Nebraska to take a timeout not even three minutes into the quarter. Whatever was talked about in the huddle was not enough, as Oden dropped in a three before Nebraska put any points on the board. To make matters worse for the Cornhuskers, McKenzie forced a steal that lead to a jumper from Cook that pushed Illinois’ lead all the way to double digits (61-51).

Despite getting to the foul line at an impressive rate within the final minutes, the lead was too steep for Nebraska to come back. With a final score of 72-64, Illinois earned its first win against Nebraska in five years and officially matched the win total of its winningest season in a decade (19-14 in 2012-13).

For the second game in a row, Cook led the Illini in scoring, this time totaling 22 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. McKenzie also had another strong outing as Illinois’ second-leading scorer, finishing with 16 points to go along with seven rebounds and two steals. Bostic earned her tenth double-double of the year, missing just two shots en route to an 11-point, 10-rebound game. Off of the bench, Oden’s energy and efficient 12 points were pivotal in Illinois’ win.

Illinois women’s basketball will face another tough road challenge this Sunday with a 12 p.m. tipoff against No. 8 Maryland.


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