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

Notes, player grades from Illinois women’s basketball’s home opener against Morehead State

Sofia Klein
Junior Adalia Mckenzie smiles as she is announced in the starting lineup for Illinois against Morehead State on Nov. 7. Mackenzie started all 32 games as a sophomore in the 2022-23 season.

No. 23 Illinois women’s basketball started its 2023-24 season strong with an 81-61 win over the Morehead State Eagles this Tuesday in Champaign. The Illini maintained their lead the entire matchup, with a huge contribution coming from senior guard Genesis Bryant, who scored a career-high total of 32 points.

“Some good things, some bad things, some okay things…”

Head coach Shauna Green may have been content with the overall outcome of the matchup, but she acknowledged there were definitely some elements of the game that could use some improvements. Bryant and senior forward Kendall Bostic scored a combined 47 out of the Illini’s 81 points, making the point distribution rather unequal for the team. Green emphasized bettering the defense overall, and despite the win, there were still some components that could use further developments.

Fortunately, Bryant had an unbelievably successful game, scoring nearly 40% of the team’s total points. The veteran player showed up and showed out for the team’s first game, and her performance is certainly not going unnoticed. Her versatility, leadership and coexistence with the other members of the team are a valuable asset to this program, and there is no doubt that her skills will continue to be highlighted in future matchups.

Illinois’ starting five players are indicated with *.

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* Genesis Bryant (A+)

This game was definitely a bit of a coming-out party for Bryant without her co-star Makira Cook in the backcourt. Bryant finished with a career-high 32 points, four assists and four rebounds on hyper-efficient shooting splits of 75/40/86 culminating in a TS of 83%. There truly isn’t much more you can ask for from your starting point guard in a game like this. As Green said many times in the post-game presser, there is still a lot of work to be done on the defensive end. However, it felt like Bryant really held her own on that end in a game where a lot of her teammates struggled a bit with their perimeter defense.

At the end of the day, every time the Illini needed a clutch play, Bryant was right there to deliver it which feels like a great reason to start her season off with a perfect grade.

* Jada Peebles (B-)

In the 25 minutes Peebles played, she only finished with three total points, but her efforts elsewhere are the reason behind her grade. She made two assists and had three offensive boards, making her a key player on offense, despite the lack of scoring. Her efforts underneath the rim are certainly an aspect the team will need in the future, and there is hope that she will rack up more points in upcoming matchups. That scoring potential came from Peebles during last week’s exhibition and it’s clear what she’s capable of when she catches fire with her jump shot.

Green also lauded Peebles’ improvement and length on the defensive end and she might receive the matchup with the opponent’s top scorers in big games down the line.

* Adalia McKenzie (C+)

In the 30 minutes McKenzie played, she ended the competition with just six points under her belt, going 3-10 in field goals overall. She drew three fouls on her end and managed to get one steal during the game as well. McKenzie also grabbed two offensive rebounds in the time she played.

Green mentioned that there were a lot of open looks that McKenzie would usually convert and we have no reason to believe she won’t the next time out. The Illini are going to need that extra scoring, especially in the absence of Cook.

* Brynn Shoup-Hill (B+)

Shoup-Hill did not see as much time on the court as she usually does due to Morehead State primarily running four-guard sets that were hard to match if the Illini had two six-footers in the game. She made the most of her time on the court though as she picked up six points on 75% TS, three boards, two blocks and a steal. The defensive side of the ball was where Shoup-Hill shined, as she was able to pick up her perimeter defenders when Morehead State got downhill and into the paint.

* Kendall Bostic (A+)

This is exactly the kind of game you want to see from Bostic to begin the season. The senior forward finished the night with a full box score of 15 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block, even hitting a jumper from beyond the arc in her only attempt. Like Bryant, Bostic finished the game looking hyper-efficient on the offensive end of the floor. However, where Bostic truly shines is on the defensive end of the court. She is a very vocal leader on that end and as such finished with the aforementioned three stocks — steals plus blocks — and a team-low defensive rating of 76. It’s very early in the season, but it seems like more awards and accolades than originally anticipated could be on the radar for Bostic.

Kam’Ren Rhodes (B+)

Green had high praise for Rhodes after last week’s exhibition and going into this game. With no Cook tonight and the Eagles running a lot of small ball, Rhodes ended up playing 25 minutes tonight, and it’s fair to say that she did a nice job filling in and stepping into a role she hadn’t really played before. She finished with seven points on 50% shooting and picked up three boards as well. Rhodes looked like an experienced veteran running the offense with both the backups and the starters. She could look to stick as a rotational player after the return of Cook and into Big Ten play.

Gretchen Dolan (B)

For the freshman’s first competitive college game of her career, she had a solid start to the season scoring six points, four of which were free throws. Being able to draw four fouls, make one assist and one steal in a little over 13 minutes is pretty impressive for the rookie.

Green was pleased with Dolan’s aggressiveness during the game but was adamant that she must rebound more and work on her defense in order to establish herself on the court a little more.

Camille Hobby (C+)

Based on last week’s exhibition matchup against Truman State, it seemed likely that Hobby was going to have a more solid game; however, it was not the outcome that was entirely anticipated. The center played about 13 minutes, scoring six points and going 3-8 in field goals. She managed to get one steal and one rebound but had three personal fouls during the time she was on the court.

Obviously, Hobby is a veteran in a new system, so it’s easy to understand why she might look uncomfortable in certain offensive sets and was getting looks that Illini fans can expect her to convert going forward. The main concern right now is how much the interior defense regresses with Hobby at the five rather than Bostic, but with Green, it shouldn’t be a problem in the future.

Shay Bollin (N/A)

Bollin played a total of five minutes across the first and third quarters. She brought some good hustle and energy, but ultimately picked up nothing in the box score.

Cori Allen (N/A)

Allen only saw two minutes on the court and the only stat the freshman accumulated was a personal foul.

Makira Cook (DNP)

While it is likely the senior guard would have had a spot in the starting lineup for this game, Cook was ruled out for the evening after taking a hit to the head during last week’s exhibition game. The senior continues to be day-to-day, according to Green.


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Tess Eken
Tess Eken, Assistant Sports Editor
Hi everyone! My name is Tess and I’m currently a junior studying communications with a minor in Spanish. I joined The Daily Illini because I wanted to combine my love for sports with my love for writing, so I get the best of both worlds here! Outside of journalism, I love baking and spending time with my friends and family. If you have any questions or just want to talk sports with me, feel free to email me using the button below. I-L-L!
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