The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

No. 23 Illinois women’s basketball opens season at home vs. Morehead State

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Olivia McAfoos
Guard Genesis Bryant is runs the ball at point on Oct. 30 against Truman.

After a strong season last year and a dominating win in their exhibition game against Truman State, Illinois women’s basketball is ranked to start the year. Looking to get off on the right foot in the first game that counts, No. 23 Illinois is faced with an opening night matchup against Morehead State.

The Illini received contributions from everyone up and down the roster last Monday and hope for a similar outcome on Tuesday night. However, they could be without star guard Makira Cook. Cook left at the end of the first half in the exhibition game last week, and head coach Shauna Green says they are still taking her “day to day.” If Cook is out, the Illini may look to senior guard Genesis Bryant to step up and run the point with the starting unit with plenty of time from sophomore guard Kam’Ren Rhodes in relief.

Green has total faith in the rest of her roster if Cook will not be able to go, emphasizing that both Bryant and Rhodes, amongst others, have been practicing for these exact moments.

“I have comfort and trust in every single person,” Green said. “That’s the nice thing about adding some pieces, you have more options if an injury happens.”

Outside of the injury situation, the same familiar faces in junior guard Adalia McKenzie, junior forward Brynn Shoup-Hill and senior forward Kendall Bostic will be heavily featured as well. There is also a chance that fifth-year guard Jada Peebles will see increased minutes, or even a start in the absence of Cook.

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Peebles was one of the standouts of last week’s game and a favorite amongst coach Green’s talking points on Monday.

“I think she’s probably the person I’ve seen the most growth from,” Green said. “To see her after a full year and a half of training and workouts, she’s just not a one-dimensional player anymore.”

Morehead State comes into the game only returning three of its top five scorers after a subpar 2022-23 season in which it finished eighth in the Ohio Valley Conference. Senior guard Veronica Charles led the way for the Eagles in scoring, rebounding and stealing last season, and returns with hopes of building off it.

Green could also do a little more experimenting in the front court, pairing Bostic with fifth-year transfer center Camille Hobby, as she has hinted at many times leading up to the season. Hobby’s ability to step out and hit a jumper was shown last week, and Green says Bostic can too.

Either way, there’s reason to expect a great showing from Illinois this game and beyond. Fans can catch the season opener at the State Farm Center on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. as the Illini take on the Morehead State Eagles. The game will also be streamed on Big Ten Plus for those who cannot attend.

 

@spitzanity

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