By IlliniGuys Staff
January 1, 2023
(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Genesis Bryant scored 19 of her career-high 24 points in the second half and Illinois held off a furious 4th quarter comeback to stun #12 Iowa 90-86 Sunday afternoon at State Farm Center.
It's Illinois' first home win over a ranked opponent since they defeated then-17th ranked Iowa 73-61 0n January 8th, 2015 and it continues the Illini's historic run to start the season.
The Hawkeyes were led by their scoring star Caitlin Clark, who scored 32 points to record her 4th 30-point game of the season, but fouled out with 19 seconds left.
Makira Cook scored 20 for Illinois (13-2, 3-1) while Adalia McKenzie added 16. Kendall Bostic had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Iowa (11-4, 3-1) rode its pair of 2,000-point scorers early in the game. Clark scored eight points and Monika Czinano added seven as the Hawkeyes closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run to lead 18-13.
After the Illini and Czinano traded the first four baskets of the second quarter, Illinois tightened the screws defensively. They held the Hawkeyes to just four field goals in the final 8:00 of the half with everyone getting involved on the offensive end. A McKenzie layup and Jada Peebles three pointer tied the game at 22, then McKenzie and Cook took over. The Illini's leading scorers combined to score their next 15 points and a 37-31 Illinois lead, which was extended on a Jayla Oden fastbreak jumper keyed by a Bostic block on a Clark layup attempt. The loudest cheer from the 4,803 in attendance came at the end of the first half, when Bryant hit a three-point jumper at the buzzer to give Illinois its biggest lead at 44-33.
Iowa had beaten the Illini in seven straight meetings and they put up a late rally as expected. Czinano scored 13 of her 24 points in the second half to set the stage for Clark. One of the nation's most prolific scorers at 26.7 points per game, the junior sharpshooter scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, including four jaw-dropping three-pointers from far behind the arc that drew oohs from the opposing crowd. The pair pulled the Hawkeyes from what was a nine-point deficit early in the 4th quarter to within one at 75-74.
But Illinois showed the poise of a veteran, championship level team and never relinquished the lead. Bostic, who was 7-for-7 from the field, hit a pair of free throws followed by a Bryant three pointer to push the Illini advantage back up to 80-74. Then after another Clark trey, Bryant scored on a layup and McKenzie stole the ensuing inbounds pass for another layup and a 84-77 lead at the 2:30 mark. Illinois allowed just one Iowa field goal the rest of the way.
Illinois received votes in the coaches poll last week after winning 12 games before December 31st for the first time ever and may now find themselves cracking the Top 25 for the first time since 2000 after their biggest victory of the season. They will host Northwestern Thursday night at State Farm Center (8pm, BTN).
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