Illinois women’s basketball hosts season opener against North Carolina Central


Ryan Ash

Illini guard Jada Peebles attempts a lay-up against Valparaiso on Dec. 2, 2020. The team will begin their season against North Carolina Central on Tuesday.

By Will Payne, Assistant Sports Editor

To kick off its 48th season, the Illinois women’s basketball team will welcome the North Carolina Central Eagles to the State Farm Center on Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 11 a.m., as the game will be streamed on BigTen+. 

The Eagles are coming off a 4-12 COVID-19-shortened season last year, when they finished fifth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Fifth-year senior Necole Hope, who was selected to the preseason All-MEAC third team, and sophomore Paris McBride will lead the lines for North Carolina Central. 

After finishing last year with a 5-18 record (2-16 in the Big Ten), the Illini look to begin this season with a positive result. This season will prove to be a fresh start for Illinois, who welcome three new freshmen, three transfers and two assistant coaches to the team.

Quite possibly the biggest issue for Illinois will be replacing former starters Jeanae Terry and Kennedi Myles, who transferred out of the program. Terry and Myles were the second and third leading scorers for the Illini, as they averaged 10.7 and 8.7 points per game, respectively.

Returning junior guard Jada Peebles will look to pick up the slack from the transfers and continue her solid play during this new season. She led the Illini in scoring and minutes per game and will be key to any successful Illinois performances.

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Beginning her fifth season at the helm, head coach Nancy Fahey has a very simple goal for the Illini in their first game, as she hopes they can start off the year on the right foot.

“Our goal is to end up with more points than the other team,” Fahey said. “We want to learn to win and learn to compete.”

Despite being a smaller out-of-conference foe, Fahey has a lot of respect for the Eagles. She expects it to be a tough opening game for Illinois, largely because of North Carolina Central’s defensive flexibility.

“The team we are playing tomorrow basically runs a kitchen sink at you,” Fahey said. “I’ve never seen so many multiple defenses played by one team. They’re athletic, they like to trap and give the game that crazy feeling.”

Tuesday morning’s matchup between the Illini and Eagles will be the first time the two schools have met in women’s basketball, as this matchup will begin a four-game home stand for Illinois.



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