While Head Women's Basketball Coach Suzy Merchant watched from home, Michigan State women’s basketball's double-digit comeback on the road fell short in the final minute to No. 22 Illinois (16-5, 6-4). The Spartans ultimately fell 86-76..
Junior guard Makira Cook was cooking on the offensive end all night for the Fighting Illini, delivering a game high performance with 26 points.
In Associate Head Coach Dean Lockwood’s first game as head coach this season, the Spartans got off to a hot start.
It took eight minutes for the first media timeout to be called, but in that stretch MSU put up 14 points to give themselves a one point lead with two minutes left in the first quarter. Graduate student guard Kamaria McDaniel and sophomore guard DeeDee Hagemann both started strong with five points and a three-pointer a piece. Hagemann added another bucket before the final buzzer of the quarter to extend her team’s lead to three and her total to seven.
It was a different story in the second quarter though as the Fighting Illini started to ramp up their energy midway through.
Cook led the way for Illinois in the first half as she scored eight points in the second quarter of the game to push her total to 10 at that point.
MSU struggled with turnovers in the second quarter which helped Illinois push their lead to double-digits a few minutes before both teams entered the locker room. They gave the ball away five times in the second quarter and seven times in total in the first 20 minutes.
Early in the second half, both teams went back and forth as Illinois held onto their eight-point lead through five minutes. Cook continued to give MSU issues as she had six in that span. McDaniel helped keep the Spartans in the game at that point, having drilled two three-pointers to give herself a team-high 13 points through the first 25 minutes of game action.
The Spartans started to find their legs midway through the third period when senior forward Taiyier Parks and Hagemann both converted and-one plays while senior guard Moira Joiner hit on a three-point attempt to get MSU within two.
Illinois answered right back in the final minutes of the quarter, having entered the final 10 minutes with a nine-point advantage. Former Spartan and junior forward Kendall Bostic proved to be trouble, putting up six points in the final two minutes of the quarter.
The Fighting Illini forced MSU to call an early fourth quarter timeout as they extended their lead to 14 within the first minute of the final quarter.
The Spartans continued to fight in the final minutes of the game, but the Fighting Illini were just too much for MSU. A couple of late buckets Joiner and McDaniel cut the deficit to four in the final minute, but Illinois held on thanks to free throws by junior guard Genesis Bryant and Cook.
Sophomore forward Matilda Ekh was off the entire night, only managing four points on 2-8 shooting from the field and 0-5 shooting from deep.
With the loss, the Spartans fall to 11-10 on the year and 3-7 in conference play. They will travel to Nebraska for their next outing Thursday night on Feb. 2. at 8:30 p.m.