CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Genesis Bryant’s second act with the Illini is off to a hot start.
The Illini star scored a career-high 32 points in No. 23 Illinois’ season-opening 81-61 win over Morehead State on Tuesday night at State Farm Center.
Illinois won without starting point guard Makira Cook, who head coach Shauna Green said is day-to-day with an injury.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The game started off slow on both sides as both teams struggled to score early.
Bryant did most of the first quarter heavy lifting as she went 4-of-6 from the field scoring 9 points in the first quarter that ended with a 20-11 score in favor of the Illini and would foreshadow Bryant's final performance.
Coming into the second quarter the Illini didn’t exactly hold a comfortable lead.
However, the Illini finished the second quarter hot as Kendall Bostic and Bryant got into a rhythm both in scoring and ball distribution. Bostic led the Illini to an 8-0 run during the quarter.
The Illini got plenty of shots up and shot 50% from the field leading to a 44-24 lead at halftime.
Rolling into the third quarter, however, the Illini came out flat, failing to score a single point until a little more than halfway through the quarter.
Most of the Illini’s points came off scrappy defense by Morehead State, which led to 15 points from the charity stripe.
“We’re always trying to be aggressive we’re always trying to get to the free-throw line,” Green said. “That’s something that we talked about all the time and again, being the aggressor, get down and get paint touches,”.
The Illini closed the fourth quarter with Bryant dominating during the ladder half of the quarter to secure the win and finish with 32 points.
Bostic described what makes Bryant stand out as a unique point guard.
“[Bryant’s] willingness to create plays for others, but also knowing when she needs to step up and score,” Bostic said.
Green took responsibility for the defensive woes.
“it’s on me I got to figure it out and I will figure it out and we’ll get back to it on two days of prep,” Green said.
Camille Hobby made her Illini regular season debut providing some depth for Bostic down the stretch as she put up 6 points coming off the bench.
Despite Bostic’s competitive nature, and her desire to get minutes, Bostic was always on board with the addition of Hobby over the offseason.
“[Bostic] was helping us recruit her because she wants a good teammate. She wants more great players here.” Green said.
Kam’ren Rhodes stood out off the bench. Rhodes played a starter-esque 25 minutes, while also contributing 7 points to the cause.
“I don’t know last year at this time if she’d be able to do that,” Green said. “But that just shows what a year of experience does.”
Yes, Illinois is off 1-0 start in the season, but the win did not come without its rebounding and defensive woes. The Illini had a nearly five-minute stretch of scoreless basketball both in the first and third quarters.
The Illini also gave Morehead State 8 second-chance points. If the Illini want to beat more elite competition, they’re going to have to clean up before they face the likes of No. 10 Notre Dame.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Genesis Bryant zips through Morehead State’s defense for a bucket in the paint.
- Genesis Bryant dominated on the floor going 12-of-16 from the field, with a career-high 32 points.
- The Illini ended the third quarter shooting 4-of-11 from the field culminating in a dreadful 36.4% shooting percentage.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Morehead State failed to score on free throws leading to Illini fans earning free nuggets.
Makira Cook is still day to day per Coach Green.
Up next, the Illini will visit the Marquette Golden Eagles in Milwaukee on Saturday.