SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WCIA) — Illinois loses to Mississippi State 70-56 and is out of the NCAA tournament. The game was back and forth, until halftime when the Bulldogs came out ready to play. The Illini finish their season 22-10.
Bulldogs Jessika Carter led for her team with 22 points and 8 rebounds. Makira Cook led for Illinois with 21 points. Genesis Bryant followed her with 17. The Illini shot 37% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc.
A more than 10 minute stretch without a made field goal in the second half doomed Illinois in the NCAA Tournament opener against Mississippi State, as the Illini bow out in the First Four.
“We had what, two or three turnovers to start the half? And I thought that was total momentum changer,” Illinois head coach Shauna Green said. “The confidence kind of comes out of you and they were able to get layups. I thought that was really a swing.”
Brynn Shoup-Hill returned to the starting lineup after missing four games, but fellow starter Kendall Bostic was limited by a practice injury ahead of the game, severely hampering the Illini as she missed the whole fourth quarter.
“I’ve been with Autumn our trainer like two or three times a day for hours at a time just trying to get it back to normal but obviously that didn’t happen with us getting an earlier game than expected,” Bostic said.
“It kind of limited our playbook and then put way more pressure on our guards,” Green said. “Brynn’s not back offensively, when you haven’t played in two weeks you’re not going to really have the rhythm. I mean no excused but it is what it is.”
As far as what’s next for the Illini, almost the whole team is able to come back for next season.
“I didn’t see this game as an end for us,” Illinois forward Adalia McKenzie said. “This is just the start to something great. We have everybody coming back, ain’t nothing better than that.”
“That experience, just being comfortable, knowing that we got here in our first year,” Illinois guard Genesis Bryant said. “Now we all get to really come together. Never know what’s going to happen in the offseason so I’m just excited for what we have coming up.”
This loss marks the end of the most successful season in recent history for Illinois, but it also marks possibly the start of what the Illini can be under Shauna Green as they already have eyes on making it back again next season.