Illini crush Millikin in pre-season opener


Illinois’ Kyley Simmons (15) lays the ball up during the exhibition game against Millikin at State Farm Center on Saturday. The Illini won 108-38.

The Illinois women’s basketball team made the most of its only preseason exhibition game. Although the opponent was Division III school Millikin, Illinois and head coach Matt Bollant still seemed to send a message. 

Despite the fact that the win won’t count towards Illinois’ regular season record, the 108-38 victory showed a lot about the Illini. The squad showed that they’ve greatly improved in the spots they struggled in last year but still have a lot of room to grow. 

The main issue Illinois had to deal with last season was depth. The scrimmage showed that Bollant has done a lot since the end of last season to change that. 

“A lot of different people can score, which is exciting to have more weapons offensively than we’ve had in the past,” Bollant said. 

The mix of freshman and transfers expected to make an impact showed their value to the Illinois fan base against Millikin. Top-100 recruits Chatrice White and Amarah Coleman set the bar high for their performance heading into the regular season. White is someone who adds depth down low and has been referred to by Bollant as a “program changer.” She had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in only 16 minutes on the floor. 

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    “(My debut) was a little rocky I think, but once I kind of settled down, I felt a little more comfortable out there,” White said. 

    Coleman added 10 points with four assists and three rebounds in just 14 minutes. 

    Production from newcomers didn’t stop at the two highly touted freshman. Redshirt junior Kyley Simmons transferred from Missouri and sat out last season. She poured in 17 points in her first appearance with the Illini. 

    “It’s fun to be able to take care of the ball,” Bollant said. “I don’t know how many games in the past two years that we’ve had double the assists that we did turnovers, I don’t think that’s happened many times and (Simmons) was a big part of that.” 

    Brittany Carter also added 15 points, and is expected to be an important senior presence after transferring from Ball State just a few months ago. 

    Illinois made it obvious that Bollant will have a tough job this season choosing his lineup. He’s going to be able to consistently go 11 deep off the bench, a good problem to have. 

    “I think the starting five have separated themselves from the next five, but the next five is really open so we’ll see down the road who steps up,” Bollant said. 

    The 108 points was another indication that Illinois has improved since last season. The total is hard to make judgements on, because of the competition level, but the fact that seven different Illini scored in double digits proves Illinois is getting better quickly. 

    Bollant sees one big issue that his team needs to work on before the official season opener on Friday.

    “We thought we’d be a little farther along than we were but this week, we’ve got to get better defensively and grow as a team,” Bollant said. 

    Brett can be reached at [email protected] and @Blerner10.