CHAMPAIGN — Sophomore forward Kendall Bostic grabbed 22 rebounds and scored 12 points as the Illini women’s basketball team cruised to a 71-57 win over Eastern Kentucky Sunday afternoon.
Bostic spoke matter-of-factly about her rebounding effort, which was the program’s best individual rebounding performance in 40 years.
“This was a team (EKU) that we really needed to rebound against,” Bostic said. “A lot of these girls on this team like to rebound, so I kinda knew it was a point of emphasis today. I knew that if we wanted to win we had to board.”
Aaliyah Nye led Illinois in scoring with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting from three-point range. She credited her team’s recent work on ball movement for producing more open looks at the basket.
“I was very comfortable when we moved the ball a lot more,” Nye said. “Because I was open. Because the ball moves from one side to the other, which makes the defense shift.”
Geo Lopes scored 10 points for Illinois, and Jada Peebles added 9.
The Colonels were led in scoring by Jayla Johnson with a game-high 20 points. Ariel Kirkwood added 10 points and 7 rebounds for EKU. Bria Bass chipped in 8 points and a team-high 8 rebounds. EKU drops to 2-4 on the year.
Bostic’s 22 boards were good for third place all-time in the history of Illinois Women’s Basketball. Betty Anderson grabbed 30 against Eastern Illinois in January of 1975. Martha Hutchinson grabbed 23 caroms versus Indiana St. in January of 1980.
A remarkable aspect of Bostic’s rebounding is that she does it without fouling. Indeed, she was assessed with a single personal foul on Sunday, and it came 20 feet from the basket, as she set a pick for Peebles.
“She (the referee) said I kind of initiated the contact, so I think it was kind of my upper body moving,” she said.
With the win, the women improve to 4-4 on the season. Next up is the Big Ten opener at Michigan State. That game tips Thursday night at 6pm central time.
Underwood looking for first win in Iowa City
The Illini men are in Iowa City where they’ll face the 7-1 Iowa Hawkeyes Monday evening. Freshman forward Luke Goode said coach Brad Underwood made sure his players were aware that they’ve never won at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Coach Underwood said he hasn’t won in there since he’s gotten the job, so that’s something that we take personally and the team’s ready for the challenge,” Goode said.
Underwood said this Iowa team will challenge for a conference championship, and might be better than last year’s squad, even without stars Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp and CJ Fredrick, who’ve all moved on, Garza and Wieskamp to the pros, and Fredrick to the University of Kentucky.
Underwood said guard Joe Toussaint has improved his shooting and continues to be a dominant penetrator from the point guard position. Forward Keegan Murray is considered an NBA prospect. He didn’t play in the Hawkeyes 77-70 loss Friday at #2 Purdue. Underwood says he expects Murray to play against Illinois.
As for his own walking wounded, Underwood said his players are practicing now, having overcome two weeks of illness caused by an undetermined virus that brought both flu-like and gastrointestinal symptoms. He said Trent Frazier, in particular, has been back at practice and working though lingering discomfort from shoulder and knee injuries.
“Trent’s back in practice and Trent’s gonna gut up and play through anything,” Underwood said. “To say he’s a hundred percent, he’s gaining ground on that. He’ll be good for 35 minutes.”
Underwood said there’s no change in status for Andre Curbelo, who hasn’t dressed in recent games, but has attended in street clothes.
The Monday night game at Iowa starts at 6pm central time and will be televised on FOX Sports 1.