CHAMPAIGN, Ill — A much-needed win against a solid team.
Trailing by double digits in the second half, Illinois overcame an 11-point deficit and found a way to top Minnesota, 73-68, on Sunday at State Farm Center.
As the fourth quarter wound down Kendall Bostic found Camille Hobby in the paint to take two-score lead and ice the game with 20 seconds.
Throughout the first half, it looked like Illinois’ struggles against teams at or above .500 would continue.
Illinois’ (9-10, 3-6 Big Ten) turnover issues reared its ugly head early as the Illini had five turnovers in the first quarter alone and it could’ve easily been more.
Bostic had 9 rebounds in the first half, but the Illinois defense struggled, allowing Minnesota’s Anaya Battle to take command of the floor as the Gophers scored 25 in the second quarter. Illinois trailed at half 39-29.
Last outing against Ohio State, the Illini came out flat in the second half. This time against Minnesota (14-6, 4-5 Big Ten), the results were different.
“We had a nice chat at halftime,” head coach Shauna Green said. “I was not happy with the second quarter.”
In the third quarter Makira Cook got hot and the offense went on a 7-0 run, helping the Illini claw their way back and make it a four-point game heading into the final frame.
Illinois shot the ball much better in the second half, going 18-of-29 on the field.
The defense was much stronger in the second half, too. Illinois forced 11 turnovers all game, and four of them came in the fourth quarter.
The defense was able to shut down a poised Battle and Illinois responded in the clutch.
Early in the fourth quarter, Genesis Bryant got on a heater, as the Illinois star hit a clutch three-pointer that ignited a 10-0 run and a late-game comeback.
“This is the Gen that we saw a lot of last year,” Green said. “She has that look in her eye and it makes me feel more at ease.”
In the final minutes Illinois found itself in a similar position it’s been in all season: a 50/50 game heading into the final minutes.
Up to this point the Illini lost all their close games against teams at or above .500, but this time the Illini responded in the clutch.
“We needed one of these close games to go our way and we finally made shots and made plays,” Green said.
Cook ended the game with 22 points and 7 assists. Kendall Bostic had another huge game notching 19 rebounds, while Hobby and Bryant combined for 38 points.
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TWEET OF THE GAME
Illinois has mustered momentum late, they're on a 10-0 run.— Said Nonoal (@Nonoalmedia) January 28, 2024
We'll see if Illinois can complete a comeback.
The Illini will go on a two-game roadtrip, and go to Ann Arbor to face a Michigan team that dominated Illinois earlier this season.
The matchup will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday and streamed on BTN+.