Season Over: Illini Build 14-Point First Quarter Lead But Can’t Survive Maryland’s Rally

The 2023-24 campaign for Illinois women’s basketball ends in disappointing fashion as they fail to hold on to a 14-point lead in the first quarter in a Big Ten Tournament second round loss to Maryland.

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer

March 7, 2024

The 2023-24 season for the Illinois women’s basketball program will likely end without a postseason bid.

Illinois went one and done in the 2024 Big Ten Tournament after dropping a 75-65 decision to Maryland in the second round of play on Thursday afternoon.

In one of their best starts to a game this season, the Illini (14-15) built a 14-point lead after the first 10 minutes of play as they made 11 of its first 16 shots and forced Maryland into just four field goals along with three turnovers for the double-digit cushion. However, Maryland (18-12) managed to rally thanks to its proficient three-point shooting and ability to lock down Illini leading scorer Makira Cook to likely secure the Terrapins bid into the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

“What I've always loved about Brenda's teams are their toughness and their physicality and just that grit they have to them,” Illinois head coach Shauna Green said. “You've got to have that. You've got to have that for 40 minutes. You especially need it in March, and I thought at times we just have to be more consistent with that.”

If Maryland, which is currently projected by ESPN.com analyst Charlie Creme as a 11-seed in the 2024 field, hears its name called for the postseason, it would mark the 20 straight postseason berth for the program with 18 of those 19 being NCAA Tournament bids.

The last time Maryland produced a rally of that size to win was Nov. 13, 2019 when they were down 60-41 with nine minutes and 55 seconds left in the fourth quarter at James Madison.

Cook, a second-team All-Big Ten Conference selection this season, finished with a team-high 17 points but was 3 of 16 from the field in the final three quarters of play. Camille Hobby, playing in her final collegiate game, recorded 16 points and seven rebounds in 37 minutes of action.

“So when you're not hitting threes, they're able to collapse in even more,” Green said. “So I thought it was more an adjustment they made of doing a better job defensively because we were trying to run the same stuff and get the ball inside to K.B. and Hobby, and there's a couple times our guards didn't get the ball into them as well, and I told them that. Really the game plan didn't change in terms of that. I think Maryland made an adjustment in terms of how they were defending us.”

Maryland was led by Bri McDaniel’s double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds as the graduate of Kenwood Academy in Chicago hit a career high mark for rebounds while playing at least four different positions on the floor in her 39 minutes of action.

Illinois was outscored 65-41 in the final 30 minutes of play with Cook and senior guard Genesis Bryant missing 15 of 19 shot attempts after halftime. The Illini are still searching for its first win in program history over Maryland as the Terrapins, which have bounced Illinois out of the Big Ten Tournament in each of the last two seasons, have a 17-0 advantage all-time in the series. The Illini were also trying to make back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in the conference tournament since 1999-2001.

Kendall Bostic picked up her 13th double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Kokomo, Ind. native fouled out with 33 seconds remaining.

Maryland’s pressure defense forced Illinois into 12 turnovers after the first quarter and the Terrapins converted those mistakes into 24 points on the other end of the floor.
The Terrapins, which will play 2024 Big Ten regular season champion Ohio State in the quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m. CST on Big Ten Network, got 13 points off the bench from fourth-year junior forward Allie Kubek along with six rebounds. The transfer from Towson was key to Maryland being able to survive the final three minutes and 33 seconds without All-Big Ten first-team selection Shyanne Sellers after the Terrapins leading scorer fouled out with her team ahead by just six.

In her post-game media conference, Green did not close the door on the idea of Illinois potentially accepting an invitation in the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) as there is no winning percentage requirement to compete in that tournament but the last power conference program to participate in that postseason tournament was Minnesota in 2012.

“That's something that I've got to watch and think this through,” Green said. “We've got to really just take a look in the mirror at all of us, and like what do we really want out of this postseason if we have the opportunity to play in it? Do we want to go and try to, if it's the WBIT or whatever, make a run at that? What's our mindset? So, I think right now we need a couple days to just reflect and to watch and to see, and then we'll address that as we move forward.”

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