Illinois women’s basketball capitalizes on assists to beat Presbyterian


Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Petra Holešínská (13), Kennedi Myles (44) and J-Naya Ephraim (0) run down the court of the State Farm Center during Illinois’ game against Presbyterian. Illinois beat Presbyterian 71-52 on Saturday.

By Brendyn Jones, Staff Writer

The Illinois women’s basketball team (6-1) beat Presbyterian College (3-4) with five Illini scoring in double figures Saturday evening. The 71-52 win marked Illinois’ third victory in a row and sixth overall.

The game was close only during the first quarter. The back-and-forth stopped when a layup by freshman forward Kennedi Myles put the Illini up 20-19 with 9:01 left in the second quarter. Presbyterian didn’t take the lead again for the rest of the game.

Myles, who was one of the leading scorers for Illinois against Presbyterian, had 12 points and notched her third career double-double in only seven games with the Illini. She also added two blocks and a steal to go along with her double-double performance.

Myles said being a freshman doesn’t affect her ability to be a vocal leader on the team.

“I don’t think me being a freshman has anything to do with it,” Myles said. “It’s my team. I love my team. I love the energy that they bring. So, it makes it easy for me to want to get loud, to get turnt, just for everything that we do.”

The Illini have had a lot of help from their three freshmen this year. Fellow freshman guard Jada Peebles contributed 10 points and had the best plus-minus of the game at +21. Guard Jeanae Terry also put up 7 points off the bench for the Illini.

One of Illinois’ strengths against Presbyterian was the team’s ability to create constant ball movement. The Illini assisted 22 times on 28 field goals, while Presbyterian was only able to total nine assists on their 18 field goals.

“We’re a really good team when we’re getting played in man, and our focus was zone because obviously the team zoned us most of the game,” Myles said. “So, in practice, we work on penetrating and passing. So, what we saw was a lot of collapsing which made it open for (our) posts at the bottom for those easy dishes.”

The Illini earned a season-high 22 assists, beating their previous high by one. Illinois put up 21 assists in its first game of the season against Chicago State, and the team didn’t eclipse the 20-assist mark again until the game against Presbyterian.

Head coach Nancy Fahey said building chemistry is a foundation for the future, and the Illini’s summer trip to Australia was a chance to capitalize on that.

“What’s so fun about coaching and watching these teams develop is that a lot of people are impatient about where their chemistry is going,” Fahey said. “What you have to understand as a coach is that … it takes all those emotions. For instance, going to Australia, all we’ve gone through in preseason. That’s the foundation, and that’s what … leads a team to have a game like today where it can be fun.”

The team has been slowly bringing back senior Brandi Beasley, who suffered a concussion in the preseason. Beasley is the highest returning scorer from last season with 11.6 points per game and led the team in assists last season with 4.9 per game. Beasley made her season debut in Illinois’ fourth game but hasn’t started yet.

The win over Presbyterian was the final game of the Illinois homestand. The team hits the road for the first time this season at North Carolina Thursday. This will be somewhat of a homecoming for freshman Jada Peebles, who is from Raleigh, North Carolina, which is about 30 miles from Chapel Hill.

North Carolina started its season 6-0 and just beat both Temple and Missouri in the Cancun Challenge, played in Cancun, Mexico. The Tar Heels are led by their center, junior Janelle Bailey, who averages 17.5 points per game.


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