Illinois beats Villanova 71-57 in inaugural WBIT championship | Trending Viral hub


INDIANAPOLIS – Makira Cook recovered from first-half foul trouble by scoring 22 of her 27 points in the second half and Kendall Bostic had 15 points and 15 rebounds, leading fourth-seeded Illinois past top-seeded Villanova, 71-57 on Wednesday night to win the first Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament championship.

Genesis Bryant added 17 points for the Fighting Illini (19-15), who won the first postseason tournament title in program history. They celebrated in front of a large, rowdy, orange-clad crowd that made the two-hour drive from the school campus and gave Illinois a clear home-field advantage inside Indianapolis’ historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Cook also had five assists, five three-pointers and was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He had 20 points and five assists in Tuesday’s semifinal win over Washington State and averaged 21.0 points during the five-game title streak.

Lucy Olsen finished with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead the Wildcats (22-13). Bella Runyan scored 11 points as Villanova made its deepest run in the tournament since reaching the 1982 AIAW Final Four.

Illinois started fast but blew the lead when Cook left with his second foul early in the second quarter. The Wildcats took advantage by taking a 32-29 halftime lead.

Everything changed when Cook returned for the second half.

After Olsen opened the third quarter with a jumper, Cook’s consecutive 3-pointers gave Illinois the lead and began a 16-2 run that Cook capped with another three. When it was over, the Illini led 45-34.

The Wildcats cut the deficit to 50-44 at the end of three, but couldn’t get any closer as the Illini pulled away in the final 10 minutes.

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