Illini Women Dominate Washington State in WBIT Semifinal; Illinois Will Play Villanova in TItle Game  

For the first time in program history, Illinois women’s basketball will play for a postseason title on Wednesday night.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer

April 1, 2024

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

For the first time in program history, Illinois women’s basketball will play for a postseason championship on Wednesday night.

The Illini (18-15) dominated from start to finish in its 81-58 victory over top-seeded Washington State inside Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Monday evening. Makira Cook, who has already announced she’ll use her extra year of eligibility thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, finished with 20 points as the All-Big Ten guard had 16 in the first half.

“I just saw hands down out there and that means man down,” Cook said in her halftime interview on ESPNU. “It’s important to get to our fast starts offensively because when we’re running, the other team has to sink in defensively and that allows us to get our kick outs and get the basketball to our shooters.

The Illinois offense was consistently successful throughout the 40-minute contest as Shauna Green’s squad converted on 54 percent of its shots from the field (34 of 63) and recorded 22 points off Washington State’s 18 turnovers.

“When she has confidence, she’s one of the best guards in the country and she’s playing with an enormous amount of confidence right now,” Illinois head coach Shauna Green said in her first quarter interview on ESPNU.

The perimeter assault was on full assault as Genesis Bryant added 18 points and 5-foot-10 wing Adalia McKenzie provided 14 points.

Inside the paint, which Illinois controlled the scoring on as well to the tune of a 34-12 margin, Camille Hobby had 12 points and eight rebounds. The WBIT Championship Game will be Hobby’s final collegiate basketball game in her five-year career.

Washington State, which was ranked this season in the Associated Press Top 25 poll as late as Dec. 10, suffered its third-largest defeat of the 2023-24 season due to its inability to rely on its defense, which arrived as one of the better units in the Pac 12 Conference this season. Washington State, which never had the lead throughout Monday evening, simply couldn’t handle the outside shooting and tempo of the Illinois offense led by Cook and Bryant.

Washington State (21-15) got 20 points from sophomore guard Astera Tuhina but freshman guard Eleonora Villa was held in check to 14 tough points on 12 shot attempts.

Illinois senior forward Kendall Bostic, playing about an hour away from her hometown of Kokomo, Ind., finished with seven points, nine rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes.

With the victory, Illinois will get a chance to win the inaugural WBIT Championship in Indianapolis, Ind. against Villanova on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. CST tip on ESPN2. Villanova defeated Penn State 58-53 in the earlier semifinal.

“This team has been playing this week the last week or two and we got one more to go,” Green said in her post-game interview on ESPNU. “When we first thought about the postseason, I told these guys if we were fortunate enough and blessed enough to be in a postseason tournament then we’d be in it for one reason and that’s to win it. We wanted to compete for a championship and go 1-0 five times. We got one more 1-0 to go.”

 

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