Illinois Basketball: 5 observations from the Illini win over Morehead State

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Illinois basketball

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – MARCH 03: Head Basketball Coach Shauna Green of the Illinois Fighting Illini watches a play from the sideline during the second half of a Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals Game at Target Center on March 03, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Maryland Terrapins won the game 73-58 over the Illinois Fighting Illini. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)

The women’s Illinois basketball team started their journey back to the NCAA tournament on Tuesday night.

Coming off 22 wins in 2022-23, the Illini are looking to build on that great season. Shauna Green didn’t lose much talent off that squad, and she was able to add some key pieces this offseason.

Illinois looked solid in the first game of the season against Morehead State. We came out and put the Eagles in a double-digital hole a couple of minutes in the second quarter and never looked back. Illinois ended up beating Morehead State, 81-61.

Here are five observations from the Illinois basketball win over Morehead State

1. Gretchen Dolan brings great energy to the Illini

I was excited when I saw Illinois land a player in 2022 who was averaging over 35 points per game. Snagging a player of that caliber, who by the way wasn’t ranked in the top 100 nationally for some reason, is always going to help the team.

Gretchen Dolan was a great addition to the Orange and Blue, and as a true freshman, she is already seeing decent minutes. In the first game of the season, with Illinois only up six points in the first quarter, Shauna Green trusted her high-scoring guard to play meaningful minutes. That type of confidence is huge from a coach.

Dolan didn’t disappoint either. While her shooting wasn’t out of this world by any means, going just 1-of-4 from the field, she found a way to put points on the board. Dolan finished her first game with six points and managed to convert 4-of-5 from the charity stripe.

With all of that being said, I don’t think Dolan’s scoring is what popped off the screen. I believe the energy she brought to the court was the most valuable asset she possessed. There are times when this program can lack energy on the court, resulting in a lackluster offensive performance. Dolan helps fix that issue, as she logged 13 minutes for the Illini and had a box plus-minus of +10 on the night. I can’t wait to see how Dolan develops over the non-conference.

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