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Illinois guard Genesis Bryant (1) and Mississippi State's forward Jessika Carter (4) in the first half of the play-in game of the NCAA women's tournament at Notre Dame in South Bend, In. on Wednesday, March 15, 2023.

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Illinois guard Makira Cook drives past Mississippi State guard JerKaila Jordan and Jessika Carter in the first half on Wednesday in South Bend, Ind.

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Illinois fan Ceasar Perez — also known as Mr. Blue Hands — brought back his signature item for Wednesday night’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament game between the Illini and Mississippi State in South Bend, Ind.

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Illinois guard Adalia McKenzie (24) reacts to the send off as they get on the bus to go to the play-in game of the NCAA women's tournament at Notre Dame in South Bend, In. on Wednesday, March 15, 2023.

Rarin' to go

Illinois guard Adalia McKenzie reacts to the sendoff the Illini women’s basketball team received outside their hotel in Mishawaka, Ind., as they boarded a bus en route to Wednesday night’s NCAA tournament game against Mississippi State at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind. The Illini saw their season end with a 70-56 loss to the Bulldogs.

5:15 p.m.

Brynn Shoup-Hill has gone through pregame warmups here at Purcell Pavilion before tonight's NCAA First Four tournament game against Mississippi State.

The Goshen, Ind., native had missed the past four games for Illinois with a right foot injury. Shoup-Hill, a 6-foot-3 sophomore forward, had started the first 27 games for the Illini before the injury and was averaging 6.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Shoup-Hill told us on Tuesday she was looking forward to the potential to play at an arena she grew up watching games at with her family season-ticket holders for Notre Dame basketball games.

South Bend

A look at the court where the Illini will play on Wednesday.


SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A 20-year wait to play in the NCAA tournament ends tonight for the Illinois women's basketball program.

The last time the Illini played in the Big Dance? That would be 7,298 days ago. Or 19 years, 11 months, 21 days.

Back then, on March 22, 2003, Theresa Grentz's Illinois team lost 72-56 to Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Knoxville, Tenn.

The 19 seasons that followed only saw the Illini finish above the .500 mark six times. But none of those seasons have matched what Shauna Green has done in year one at Illinois. The Illini's 22 wins are the most since the 1999-2000 season.

Illinois (22-9) looks to keep its breakthrough season going with the Illini facing Mississippi State (20-10) in a First Four game of the NCAA tournament, which is set for a 6 p.m. tip on ESPNU from Purcell Pavilion.

We've got you covered with Photo Editor Robin Scholz and myself here in South Bend.

Ahead of tonight's game, the News-Gazette had plenty of coverage from the Illini's pre-NCAA tournament press conference on Tuesday.

Here's a sampling of our work ...

AD Josh Whitman and Andy Green soaking in the resurgence of the Illini women's basketball program

Injury updates on Shoup-Hill, Oden, other key storylines, lineups and a game prediction

Know the foe: Mississippi State

Rooting interest: Ranking all 68 NCAA tournament teams in women's bracket

Joe Vozzelli

Sports Copy Editor

Joe Vozzelli Jr. is a sports copy editor at The News-Gazette. His email is jvozzelli@news-gazette.com.