MINNEAPOLIS — This backcourt is a problem.
The first task of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday night was no problem for Shauna Green and Co.
A team with deep March aspirations, came out with some authority against Rutgers. Led by the upperclassmen, the Illini beat the Scarlet Knights, 81-55, for the second time in five days and move onto the quarterfinals of the BTT for the first time since 2011.
The Illini will now face a red-hot Maryland, who earlier in the season they had a chance to upset on the road.
After Rutgers scored the first basket of the contest the Illini took control. The three-headed monster of Genesis Bryant, Makira Cook, and Adalia McKenzie was lethal out of the gate. Scoring at all three levels, Rutgers could not key in on one area of the floor to stop the Illini.
Illinois’ defense held Rutgers scoreless for 4 minutes in the second, allowing the Illini to grow their lead. Multiple deep runs where at times it seemed like they would never miss, Shauna Green’s team was locked in.
Bryant (10 pts), Cook (14 pts), and McKenzie (10 pts) all went into the half with double-digit performances.
The Illini started to pile it on in the second half. Everywhere you looked shots were falling in left and right for the Orange & Blue. Cook and Bryant would finish with a combined 45 points, as Illinois roll to an easy second round win over Rutgers.
If the Illini can keep up this style of play, a BTT title is just an arm’s length away.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bryant starts off hot.
.@genesisbryant_ gets the Illini started!— Illinois Women's Basketball (@IlliniWBB) March 3, 2023
Q1 8:00 | #Illini 5, Rutgers 2 pic.twitter.com/CX4bcEhneZ
Cook closes out the half.
COOK IS COOKIN` 3️⃣ @makiracook x @IlliniWBB pic.twitter.com/an8Wmz7pWW— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 3, 2023
Bryant finds Aicha Ndour under the basket.
.@genesisbryant_ with the magical feed to @AichaNdour21— Illinois Women's Basketball (@IlliniWBB) March 3, 2023
Q3 5:13 | #Illini 57, Rutgers 36 pic.twitter.com/jllKm0fBKQ
The bench was electric.
It's raining in the Target Center ☔@makiracook— Illinois Women's Basketball (@IlliniWBB) March 3, 2023
Q3 2:00 | #Illini 64, Rutgers 40 pic.twitter.com/uo7o9avugg
The Illini move on to the quarterfinals to play No. 5 Maryland on Friday night.
Tipoff is set for ~8 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network or the FOX Sports App.