Illini Women’s Basketball Seizes Postseason Chance With WBIT Bid


Just a few weeks after Senior Night, Illinois received a WBIT bid and the opportunity to compete in the postseason.

The Illini, led by one of their greatest seniors, rallied from a double-digit deficit to defeat Missouri State in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament, 74-69.

“It’s really important,” Shauna Green said of the opportunity to play at home in the playoffs. “It’s so important to have that energy behind us.”

On Senior Night Part Two, the Illini defeated the Bears after a hard-fought comeback. The victory gives Illinois another opportunity to defend its home court in the round of 16.

Early on, Illinois struggled to score points, shooting only 20% from the field in the opening four minutes of the game. Another sluggish start for Shauna Green’s team, something Illinois fans have become accustomed to this season.

“It’s hard when you haven’t played and just that competitive nature and the speed of the game,” Green went on to say.

Lacy Stokes, a Missouri State guard, immediately differentiated herself as a threat to Illinois. She led all scorers at halftime with 16 points, going 6-for-9 from the floor. The Illini defense left much to be desired, allowing MSU to lead by one heading into the second half.

“She does an unbelievable job probing, standing you off then going as she’s already low to the ground,” he added.

Makira Cook, who declared earlier this week that she will return to Illinois for her fifth year of eligibility, refused to let Stokes’ hot streak go unanswered. She did most of the early heavy lifting for the Illini, tallying 15 first-half points.

Cook described his decision to return to Illinois as a “no-brainer” following the game.

Despite a difficult first half, the Illini regrouped and staged a comeback in the second. Adalia McKenzie made a significant impact in the second half.

McKenzie guarded Stokes in the second half, allowing only six points and limiting her side to 31.6% shooting from the field.

“When we put [Mckenzie] on [Stokes], I thought it affected her with [McKenzie’s] length and her size and she couldn’t get by her,” Green said in a statement.

McKenzie scored 15 of her season-high 21 points in the second half and achieved her 1,000th career point. The effort followed two consecutive matches in which she went scoreless.

McKenzie and Cook led the Illini to a 9-0 run, putting them ahead by five. The duo accounted for 48 of Illinois’ 74 points on the evening.

Aside from Stokes, MSU’s offense was quite unproductive. The remainder of her team went 19 for 49 from the field. Illinois’ defense forced terrible looks, particularly from deep. In the second half, the Bears made three of thirteen attempts from deep.

Kendall Bostic struggled offensively but still managed to contribute, grabbing 17 rebounds.

The Illini finished the night with a 48% field goal percentage, but second-half tweaks and poor shot selection by the Bears enabled the Illini to recover.

Shauna Green’s Second Season

Despite an attendance of just under 1,400 for Thursday’s game, Orange Krush provided a lively atmosphere at SFC. Orange Krush was behind the bench rather than on the baseline as it usually is.

“They are big. “I love Orange Krush,” Green stated following the game.

“I looked back and chuckled a couple of times, like, ‘That was good’. “I wish I could say some of the things they’re saying,” Green remarked, laughing.

Thursday also marked Green’s second anniversary as head coach at Illinois.

“If you would have told me that day as I was walking in here that we’d go to an NCAA Tournament and a WBIT in two postseasons, I’d have taken that any day,” Green went on to say. “And I think everyone in Champaign if we’re being honest would take that, right?”

Thursday’s victory was Illinois’ first postseason victory in over a decade, dating back to the WNIT in 2013.

“At some point, I want this program to be playing in March at home but in the NCAA Tournament, meaning we’re a top seed and hosting,” Green said in a statement. “That’s the vision that I have and someday, that’s gonna happen.”

Stat Stuffers

  • Makira Cook (ILL): 27 points, 8-of-15 FG,
  • Adalia McKenzie (ILL): 21 points, 9-of-18 FG, 11 rebounds
  • Genesis Bryant (ILL): 14 points, 3-of-5 3PT
  • Lacy Stokes (MSU): 22 points, 8-of-17 FG, 5 assists

Tweet of the Game/you Have to See This

With the victory, Illinois will return home to face the Stony Brook Seawolves on Sunday. They defeated first-seeded James Madison on the road.

A second consecutive victory at SFC would propel Illinois to the quarterfinals, the farthest the Illini have advanced in a postseason second-tier tournament since the WNIT Elite 8 in 2013.

The game’s start time at State Farm Center will be confirmed later, and it will be webcast on ESPN+.

For more information visit our website.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.