Illinois women’s basketball achieves 15-win season for first time since 2014-15 after Minnesota win

Junior+guard+Makira+Cook++dribbles+down+the+court+against+Alcorn+State+on+Nov.+13%2C+2022.+Cook+led+in+scoring+on+Sunday%2C+amassing+20+points+and+helping+to+secure+70-57+win+against+Minnesota.+

Sidney Malone

Junior guard Makira Cook dribbles down the court against Alcorn State on Nov. 13, 2022. Cook led in scoring on Sunday, amassing 20 points and helping to secure 70-57 win against Minnesota.

By Conor Blount, Assistant Sports Editor

Coming off of a grueling loss to No. 3 Ohio State, Illinois women’s basketball traveled north for its first of two matchups this season against Minnesota. Thanks to big games from junior guards Makira Cook and Genesis Bryant, the Illini cruised to their 15th win of the season with a final score of 70-57.

Despite the loss in their last time out, Illinois had its fair share of huge performances. Junior forward Kendall Bostic earned a career-high 27 points while also reeling in 15 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the year (third in a row). Bostic missed just two shots in the entire game. Aiding Bostic on the scoring front was junior guard Genesis Bryant who had 20 points on over 50% shooting.

After losing the tip, Illini fell behind early due to a Gopher layup. Sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie tied the game for the Illini before a midrange shot from Cook and a three-point make from sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill advanced Illinois’ lead to 7-2.

The Illini drilled three of their six shots from behind the arc in the first quarter, but were only able to gross a six-point lead by the end of the period (22-16).

Minnesota opened the second quarter on a 4-0 run that put them just two points behind Illinois, however, three-point makes from Bryant and Cook pushed the Gophers into a 28-20 deficit. A layup from Bryant gave Illinois a double-digit lead, its highest of the game, with 6:03 remaining in the first half.

The Gophers nailed a three to cut into Illini’s lead, but the Illini responded with a steal on their next defensive possession that led to a smooth midrange jumper from Cook on the other end (32-23).

To close the half, Illinois continued to assert its dominance as the lead was pushed to its highest of the game (14) by the time the buzzer sounded (42-28). Despite struggling from the field, Cook’s ability to get to the free-throw line allowed her to lead the Illini in scoring with 11 points. Bryant was not far behind with an efficient 10 points, missing just one of her three shots from behind the arc. Cook and Bryant were effectively sharing the playmaking role as usual, with each picking up three assists. Graduate forward Geovana Lopes carved out a significant impact off of the bench, leading the team in rebounding with five.

A problem the Illini faced early in the season was maintaining big leads, being prone to let opponents back into games after holding a big lead at lead. However, the Illini had no trouble keeping its lead against the Gophers as they failed to cut the lead below double digits at any point in the second half.

As was true at half, Cook led Illinois in scoring after the final whistle. Notching 20 total points, Cook also picked up four assists, two rebounds and a steal. Bryant also remained not far behind, finishing with 18 points while leading the team in playmaking with five assists. Shoup-Hill had a very efficient night, hitting three of her seven shots from behind the arc while grabbing a career-high nine rebounds. The Illini led for all but 24 seconds of the game (the first 24 seconds).

Illinois women’s basketball return home this Wednesday for “Pack the House” night against No. 6 Indiana.

 

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