The women’s Illinois basketball team took on a top-20 Notre Dame program on Saturday.
This was a good test game for the Illini. It is always nice to see where the program is this early in the season, and there is no better test than the prestigious Irish program.
Illinois started strong, only down five points after the first quarter. But Notre Dame used their mighty force to take control of the game. The Illini managed to dig out of a 20-point hole and fight back within 11 points by the end of the game. Notre Dame would take the tough matchup, 79-68.
Here are five observations from the Illinois basketball loss to Notre Dame
1. Genesis Bryant continues to show she is a superstar
To beat or even compete with a top team like Notre Dame, Illinois had to have special play from a player or two. We got that on Saturday from Genesis Bryant.
Bryant isn’t just a standard guard who had a good game against the Irish. She is a bonafide superstar. When Illinois needed points, she would deliver. She finished the game with 31 points, one rebound, one steal, and one assist on 10-of-19 shooting from the field and 3-of-9 from three-point range.
For long stretches of time, Bryant was the only offense Illinois had. When we weren’t hitting shots from the field, she was able to weave her way into the lane and get to the free throw line. Bryant was a perfect 8-of-8 on the day from the charity stripe.
Makira Cook was healthy for the first time this season, but she didn’t have her legs just yet. Bryant knew this and took the reins for one more game. Without her on the court, Illinois would probably have lost this game by 20 or more points.
Coming into the game against Notre Dame, Bryant was already averaging 16.3 points per game. This 31-point performance is only going to increase that number. She is on track to be not just a first-team All-Big Ten player, but I could realistically see her on an All-American team by season’s end.