Women's basketball Game 1 preview | Morehead State at No. 23 Illinois, 6 p.m. Tuesday

Nov. 7—Lineups

No. 23 Illinois (0-0)


P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Genesis Bryant Sr. 5-6 15.2 Jonesboro, Ga.

G Adalia McKenzie Jr. 5-10 13.6 Brooklyn Park, Minn.

G Jada Peebles Sr. 5-10 6.5 Raleigh, N.C.

F Brynn Shoup-Hill Jr. 6-3 6.1 Goshen, Ind.

F Kendall Bostic Sr. 6-2 10.2 Kokomo, Ind.

FYI: The Illini shot 14 of 26 from three-point range in their lone exhibition game, a 121-60 win against Division II Truman State on Oct. 30, with eight of their three-point makes coming in the first quarter. Bryant, Peebles and Makira Cook each made a trio of three-pointers.

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Makira Cook Sr. 5-6 18.3 Cincinnati

G Gretchen Dolan Fr. 5-11 38.7 Buffalo, N.Y.

C Camille Hobby Sr. 6-3 8.8 Jacksonville, Fla.

Note: Points per game based on last season.

Morehead State (0-0)


P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Veronica Charles Sr. 5-4 13.1 Benue State, Nigeria

G Melissa Secchiaroli Jr. 5-10 2.6 Sorgues, France

G Hallie Rhodes So. 5-11 6.1 Keller, Texas

F Jayden Rhodes So. 5-11 3.8 Keller, Texas

F Valentina Saric So. 6-2 5.3 Los Altos, Calif.

FYI: None of the players on the Eagles' roster are home-state products for the Ohio Valley Conference school in northeast Kentucky. Third-year coach Cayla Petree has five international players and saw plenty of offseason turnover with Morehead State adding seven junior-college transfers, one Division I transfer and two freshmen ahead of the 2023-24 season.

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Blessing King So. 5-10 10.4 Columbus, Ohio

G/F Bri Raynor Jr. 6-2 4.4 Jacksonville, Fla.

F Hannah Hicks Jr. 6-1 12.4 Cleveland

Note: Points per game based on last season.


Site: State Farm Center (15,544); Champaign.

Radio: Mike Koon will have the call on WDWS 1400-AM and 93.9-FM.

Streaming: BTN Plus (Subscription).

Series: Morehead State leads 1-0.

Last meeting: Morehead State won 89-72 on Nov. 24, 1978, in a nonconference tournament game in Cincinnati.

FYI: Illinois, which opens the season in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 1999, spent a total of four weeks ranked last season. The Illini posted a 4-3 record as an AP Top 25 team during the 2022-23 season.

Beat writer Joe Vozzelli Jr.'s


Cook's status uncertain for opener

The first question Illinois coach Shauna Green fielded after giving her opening statement on Monday afternoon was unsurprisingly about the status of point guard Makira Cook. Green offered very little in the way of details about her All-Big Ten preseason guard, who exited the Illini's exhibition win against Truman State in the second quarter and never returned after Cook "got hit" in the head.

"As of right now, (her injury status) is really day-to-day," Green said Monday. "We're trying to see symptoms and how she's doing, so day-to-day."

What a lack of Cook could mean in the season opener on Tuesday night against Morehead State is playing Genesis Bryant a lot at point guard. Bryant split point-guard duties at times with Cook last season, with Cook moving to the off guard when the two players were on the floor together.

"You guys remember, the Missouri game last year, Makira was out (due to illness) and that's when Gen kind of stepped up and really got her start for last season of kind of exploding," Green said. "This year is a little different."

'Saying the right things'

Green considers senior forward Kendall Bostic and Cook to be the two "most vocal" players on the floor, whether in practice or games. Having the rest of the Illini grow in that area is a clear point of emphasis for Green.

"We have really, really been harping on them is trying to focus on our communication and how to communicate effectively and saying the right things," Green said. "Sometimes, they're saying stuff, but it's not a good transfer of information. It has to be quick, but it has to be loud, it has to be efficient."

Taking on defensive challenge

What Green came away most frustrated about from Illinois' exhibition-game rout was her team's lack of attention to detail on the defensive end.

"It was a lot of focusing in on close-outs (in practice)," Green said. "For us, in our defense, it all really starts there. If we can win, what we call our two-dribble war ... we're going to probably have a successful possession. If we get blown by early, now we're scrambling, now, when we're in rotation, that's not how we play. You saw that. That's why I was losing my mind on (in the exhibition)."

On the flip side, a player that has earned praise from Green for her defensive prowess is Jada Peebles. On Tuesday night, Peebles will be tasked with guarding Veronica Charles, the Eagles' best returning player.

"What I love the most (about Peebles' growth) is her defensive ability with her length and her ability to move, it really, really helps us," Green said. "Giving her some (defensive) assignments early to really buy-in and take that challenge, hopefully, that will pay off come Big Ten play and come some of these big-time games where we (face) big wings and we need to be able to lock them up."

The News-Gazette's Pick

Illinois 80, Morehead State 60

The Illini should have no problem with the Eagles even if Makira Cook is out. But this game is more about how Illinois plays. A tougher November schedule makes it important for the Illini to show early season progress in games against easier competition like Morehead State. (Last season's N-G prediction record: 27-5).