CHAMPAIGN — The Fighting Illini women’s basketball team evened their record at 5-5 this season with a 78-66 win over Butler at State Farm Center Sunday afternoon.
First-year guard Adalia McKenzie scored a career-high 23 points on 9-15 shooting. She also grabbed four rebounds and a steal, and dished out two assists. She credited her coaches and teammates for encouraging her.
“My coaches pushed me, and my teammates pushed me to keep that energy on the court,” McKenzie said. “Every game, I just try to go in and bring that spark.”
Guard De’Myla Brown added 16 points off the bench for the Illini, including a pair of three-pointers that killed a Butler rally. She was the secret weapon Illinois needed while the Butler defense focused on known shooters Jada Peebles and Aaliyah Nye.
“I know they’re going to focus in on Aaliyah all the time, so I’m like, ‘hey if we kick it one more time, I’m going to be open,'” Brown said. “I know I can knock down those shots, so it’s just a matter of when.”
Interior players accounted for little of the Illini offense. Centers Eva Rubin and Geo Lopes scored six points between them, but committed nine fouls. Lopes fouled out in just under 11 minutes of play. Rubin played 17 minutes.
Head coach Nancy Fahey acknowledged that her team needs more from the post position.
“You want to (go) inside out,” Fahey said. “I felt tonight their 6’5″ (player) and our 6’5″ (player), it was a rumble down there. An ideal situation, 100 percent, we’ve got to go inside out more.”
Kendall Bostic fell one bucket short of another double-double for Illinois, scoring 8 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. Guard Jayla Oden left the game in the second quarter, but Coach Fahey said she was simply “out of breath.”
Illinois won the rebounding battle 42-36, and had 14 assists compared to 12 turnovers. Butler had 13 assists, and turned the ball over 15 times.
Butler drops to 0-10 on the season, and remains 0-2 in the Big East. Trinity White led the Lady Bulldogs with 21 points on 6-13 accuracy from the floor, including 3-6 from the three-pointarc. She made all six of her free-throws. Zoe Jackson and Celena Taborn scored 10 points apiece for Butler.
Final exams will keep the Illini busy for the week. They return to play on Sunday the 19th on the road against SIU-Carbondale.
Austin Hutcherson out for the season with injury
After the Illini men’s loss to Arizona on Saturday, head coach Brad Underwood said wing Austin Hutcherson needs surgery for an “athletic hernia,” and would be out for 10 weeks. Underwood also said Hutcherson was done for the season. He also missed all of last season with a back injury.