Illinois women’s basketball comes up short against No. 8 Maryland

Guar+Makira+Cook+attempts+to+block+a+shot+by+Michigan+Sate+on+Jan.+29.+%0ACook+managed+to+give+the+Illini+a+short+comeback+on+Sunday+against+Maryland+unfortunately%2C+the+Illini+was+not+able+maintain+the+lead+resulting+in+a+win+for+Maryland.

Angel Saldivar

Guar Makira Cook attempts to block a shot by Michigan Sate on Jan. 29. Cook managed to give the Illini a short comeback on Sunday against Maryland unfortunately, the Illini was not able maintain the lead resulting in a win for Maryland.

By Conor Blount, Assistant Sports Editor

Less than a week after Illinois women’s basketball pulled off its best comeback of the year, the Illini were tasked with making a trip to College Park for a matchup against No. 8 Maryland without junior guard Genesis Bryant. Despite putting up a good fight and leading for a significant portion of the first half, Illinois ended up falling 82-71 when the final whistle blew. 

Featuring a marquee 20-0 run to secure the win, Illinois’ last game saw key performances from all around. Junior guard Makira Cook had a team-high 22 points while also grabbing five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Not far behind in the scoring department was sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie, who finished with 16 points to go along with seven rebounds. Off of the bench, sophomore guard Jada Oden provided much-needed energy and scoring, her 12 points were pivotal in sparking Illinois’ comeback.

After failing to come down with the tip-off, Illinois’ defense got off to a good start as they forced a Terrapin turnover within the first ten seconds of the game. However, Maryland’s defense was no joke either, holding Illinois scoreless for the first two and a half minutes of the first quarter. Sophomore guard Jayla Oden was the first to crack the scoring lid, going one of two at the free throw line before sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill drilled a three to even the game at 4-4.

A couple of minutes later, Cook found Shoup-Hill for her second three of the game. Off the bench, senior guard Jada Peebles decided to continue Illinois’ barrage from deep and knocked in a pair of three-pointers of her own, giving Illinois a slight 13-10 edge. 

From there Cook got into the swing of things, drilling two shots from the midrange within one minute. Shoup-Hill capped off an impeccable quarter with her third make from behind the arc, resulting in a 20-14 Illinois lead going into the second period. 

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    Once again Illinois started the quarter off slow as the Terrapins went on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 20-20. The Illini again responded with a ridiculous amount of made three-pointers, as Cook and Peeble nailed two in a row to reclaim a six-point lead (28-22). 

    With the threat of Illinois’ three-point shooting ever-present, driving lanes were opened for Cook, who dropped in two layups to push Illinois’ lead to eight, before yet another three-pointer from Peebles gave Illinois a 37-28 lead going into halftime. 

    Almost like clockwork, Maryland dominated the opening of the third quarter with an 11-2 run to tie the game at 39 all. A jumper from McKenzie gave Illinois a bit of life, but the Terrapins immediately responded with two points of their own on the other end. 

    At the 3:38 mark, a layup gave Maryland its first lead since the first quarter. Illinois managed to keep the game within one possession for a short while, but back-to-back Terrapin layups led to a score of 52-45. Another seven uninterrupted points by Maryland resulted in a 59-45 deficit for Illinois to overcome in the final 10 minutes. 

    The fourth quarter was not much better than the third quarter, as Maryland maintained a double digit-lead from start to finish. With a final score of 82-71, Illinois women’s basketball dropped to 19-7 overall and 9-6 in Big Ten play. 

    Cook had one of her best games of the year in terms of scoring, dropping in 29 points on top of six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Illinois three-point shooting was magnificent in the first half, thanks in large part to Shoup-Hill and Peebles, who combined for eight makes on just 13 attempts from behind the arc.

    After playing two games in four days, Illinois women’s basketball will get a week off before their Play4Kay Pink Game against Penn State next Sunday at 2 p.m. CST.

     

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