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

Career-high 32 points for Bryant begins No. 23 Illinois’ season with win over Morehead State

Senior+guard+Genesis+Bryant+drives+toward+the+basket+past+a+Morehead+State+defender+yesterday+night.+The+Illini+havent+played+the+Eagles+of+Morehead+state+since+their+one+and+only+meeting+in+the+1978-79+season.+
Sofi Klein
Senior guard Genesis Bryant drives toward the basket past a Morehead State defender yesterday night. The Illini haven’t played the Eagles of Morehead state since their one and only meeting in the 1978-79 season.

Coming off a massive exhibition game win against Truman State, the Illini kicked off their season successfully with another win over the Morehead State Eagles. Senior guard Makira Cook was ruled out for the game after taking a hit to the head in last week’s matchup, but the rest of the team still rallied to put forth strong efforts during the competition.

With Cook absent, senior guard Jada Peebles stepped in. The remaining lineup was taken by senior guard Genesis Bryant, junior guard Adalia McKenzie, junior forward Brynn Shoup-Hill and senior forward Kendall Bostic.

Only a few minutes into the first quarter, both teams had made it clear that pace was a fundamental component of their game. The women were hustling back and forth on the court, making long strides to obtain possession of the ball.

With about a minute and a half left of the first quarter, Bryant sunk a three-point shot to increase the Illini’s lead to six. A huge roar of cheers came from the crowd, and Bryant used her skillful handles to shoot another layup at the end of the quarter. She finished the quarter going 4-6 in field goals, scoring a total of nine points in just the first 10 minutes.

“My first two three’s, I didn’t really feel that comfortable, so I kind of wanted to get myself warmed up a little bit,” Bryant said. “I feel like we kind of knew like the way they play on ball as soon as they sagged a little bit … Just trying to build that confidence going to the rim … But then it’s like, ‘if it’s not broke, why fix it,’ so I just kept doing it.”

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    The Illini went into the second quarter leading 20-11. Freshman guard Gretchen Dolan earned herself good minutes in this half, positioning herself as a solid rookie for the team. She scored a layup and free throw in just the first few minutes of the quarter.

    Bostic remained tough in the paint throughout the first half. Her toughness and resilience made her a complete asset to the team during the matchup. Her skills on offense and defense were much needed and she also went 3-3 in free throws, having 11 points total by the end of the half.

    “First of all, playing the four kind of gives me a little bit of a break,” Bostic said. “I like being able to float around the perimeter a little bit, it gives me a chance to kind of guard people out there.”

    Illinois closed out the half leading 44-24 over Morehead State. The team only shot 3-9 from behind the arc, but their quickness and harmony on the court kept their lead high.

    The starting lineup began on the court for the second half, and the physicality aspect was certainly prevalent. Two jump-ball possessions occurred in just the first 45 seconds of the half, but the Eagles started off more successful, going on a 6-0 run against the Illini.

    The Illini did not score the first five minutes of the third quarter. Head coach Shauna Green showed frustration from the sideline, communicating with the girls on the court and the bench. The third quarter ended with the Illini still ahead with a lead of 16 points; however, the Eagles had outscored the Illini 22-18.

    The final quarter started off rather rough for the Illini, and the Eagles went on a 5-0 run in the first two minutes to close the gap slightly. Despite the slow start to the quarter, the energy in the State Farm Center began to shift once sophomore guard Kam’ren Rhodes successfully sank a jump shot to help maintain the lead for the Illini.

    With 5:15 remaining in the game, Bryant scored her 30th point. Then, 30 seconds later, she sank another field goal as the crowd went wild.

    The final score for the Illini’s first game ended 81-61, with a remarkable 32 points from Bryant. The Illini head into their next matchup against Marquette this Saturday in Milwaukee, with hopes that their 1-0 start will be an extra boost for their season.

    “They’re tough, they’re physical, we kind of have similar philosophies in a lot of things,” Green said on their upcoming contenders. “We gotta be ready to go, this is not a game you can go in and not be sharp … We gotta defend better, we gotta run our stuff better, because they’re a really good team.”

     

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