Illinois women’s basketball earns AP top 25 ranking for the first time since 2000

Head+coach+Shauna+Green+and+assistant+coach+DeAntoine+Beasley+get+fired+up+coaching+during+game+against+Acorn+on+Nov.+13.+%0AGreens+position+as+head+coach+led+to+the+Illini+earning+24th+best+team+by+the+Associated+Press+for+the+teams+amazing+performance+thus+far.

Sidney Malone

Head coach Shauna Green and assistant coach DeAntoine Beasley get fired up coaching during game against Acorn on Nov. 13. Green’s position as head coach led to the Illini earning 24th best team by the Associated Press for the team’s amazing performance thus far.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

Following a win over Northwestern and its second single-digit loss against a top-five opponent this season, Illinois was voted as the 24th best team in women’s college basketball by the Associated Press for the first time this season. 

The Illini currently sit at a record of 14-3, with marquee wins over Big Ten opponents such as No. 12 Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin. The most optimistic of fans likely wouldn’t have seen Illinois ranked halfway through the season, after finishing second to last in conference in 2022.

A significant portion of Illinois’ miraculous turnaround can be attributed to head coach Shauna Green, whose effect can be felt across the entire program despite being in just her first year. Green brought in four transfers, four freshmen and three new assistant coaches during the offseason to begin the program’s revamp. 

Three of the four transfers are now starters, junior guards Makira Cook and Genesis Bryant along with sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill. The guard duo of Cook and Bryant have become prominent scorers for Illinois, as Cook leads the team with 18.1 points per game while Bryant’s 14.9 points per game places her in third. On top of scoring, Cook and Bryant have shouldered much of Illinois’ playmaking load as they lead the team in assists with 4.3 and 3.8 assists per game respectively.  

It is not just transfers that have facilitated Illinois’ best season in decades, however, as Green has found a way to get the most out of the returning players as well. Following a career-high 27 points against No. 3 Ohio State, junior forward Kendall Bostic is now averaging a double-double with 10.2 points and 10.4 rebounds. Bostic’s rebounding has been key in ending plays on defense for Illinois, while also helping extend plays on offense as she grabs 3.4 offensive rebounds per game. 

Sophomore guard Adalia McKenzie is also having a career year under Green, earning a career-high 26 points at Wisconsin just two weeks ago. Perhaps her biggest development under Green has been her rebounding, as she is now the second highest rebounder on the team with 6.5 per game. McKenzie’s improved rebounding has worked in tandem with her excellent speed as offensive possessions turn into a footrace when she comes down with a defensive rebound. 

With their next stretch of games being at Minnesota and hosting No. 6 Indiana, there are plenty of opportunities for the Illini to move up further in the rankings, but a drop in form could see them still end the season out of the top 25.

 

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