Brynn Shoup-Hill and Adalia McKenzie both added 13 points for the Illini (15-3, 5-2 Big Ten Conference), who haven’t had a winning season since 2012-13, haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2003 and were last ranked on Nov. 27, 2000.
Illinois won just seven games last year, one in league play, before Shauna Green was hired from Dayton. Cook and Bryant came from Dayton with the coach and Bryant transferred from North Carolina State.
Alanna Micheaux scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Golden Gophers (8-10, 1-6), who have lost five straight. Micheaux was 11-of-16 shooting, her teammates 12 of 46 (26%).
The Illini led 42-28 at the half with Cook scoring 11 points and Bryant 10, five in the last three minutes. Illinois was 6 of 12 on 3-pointers — just 9 of 21 on 2s — and 6 of 8 from the foul line. The Gophers shot 39% and Micheaux had 10 points.
Micheaux had eight points in the third quarter but the Gophers never got closer than 10 and the spread was 14 heading into the fourth quarter.
Illinois is home on Wednesday against No. 6 Indiana when Minnesota goes to Penn State.