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Brynn Shoup-Hill is averaging 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds through 19 games for No. 21 Illinois this season.

CHAMPAIGN — When Brynn Shoup-Hill watched the game film from a Dec. 4 loss at Indiana, the sophomore forward on the Illinois women’s basketball team didn’t like what she saw.

The Goshen, Ind., native didn’t recognize that version of herself. Shoup-Hill called the Illini’s 65-61 loss to the Hoosiers last month in Bloomington, Ind., a “turning point” for her. That Shoup-Hill missed her only field-goal attempt in the four-point road loss to Indiana led to some soul searching.

“I kind of realized that I needed to be more aggressive both offensively and defensively and play my game,” Shoup-Hill told The News-Gazette after Friday afternoon’s practice at the Ubben Basketball Complex. “When I watched the game, I said, ‘That’s not really the player I want to be.’ I was passive.”

The 6-foot-3 Dayton transfer has followed through on a self-made vow to change her mindset on both ends of the floor. Shoup-Hill has made at least two three-pointers in six of Illinois’ past eight games. Twice this season, Shoup-Hill has splashed four three-pointers in a game — a 76-66 win at Missouri on Dec. 18 and a 85-79 home win against Northwestern on Jan. 5.

Ahead of Sunday’s rematch with the Wildcats (6-12, 0-8 Big Ten), which is set for a 2 p.m. tip at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Shoup-Hill is averaging 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game with a shooting slash of .473/.410/.824 while starting all 19 games for the 21st-ranked Illini (15-4, 5-3).

The decision for Shoup-Hill to join first-year Illinois coach Shauna Green in C-U wasn’t as straightforward as it was for Makira Cook, also a Dayton transfer.

Green said Cook jumped on board “right away” after Green took the Illini job in late March. Shoup-Hill waited a few weeks before entering the transfer portal and officially signing with Illinois on April 23.

“How we play in our system we needed a stretch-four (player),” Green said. “I thought the Big Ten was a better fit for her than the (Atlantic 10) was because in the (Atlantic 10) almost every four is a small guard. You can see this (year) is pretty much like her freshman year, because she didn’t play that much (last season), but she’s getting better and more confident every single game. When she was in the portal, then it’s a no-brainer for us.”

What Green and the coaching staff have constantly put in Shoup-Hill’s ear is for the 19-year-old to hunt her shot more. Going from a reserve role off the bench at Dayton to a regular starter at Illinois has been a big adjustment for Shoup-Hill, who played in 23 games as a true freshman for the Flyers last season. After finishing her preps career as Goshen High School’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocks, Shoup-Hill put up 1.8 points and 1.0 rebounds per game while averaging 6.0 minutes in her lone season at Dayton.

Green reiterated Friday bringing Shoup-Hill along this season hasn’t demanded too many conversations between coach and player.

Especially during the past few weeks when outside attention surrounding the Illini has increased quite a bit.

“She knows the expectations,” Green said. “She knows me. She knows the standard. We’ve had conversations of, ‘You’re getting better. We need you to take more shots and be more aggressive.’ But I haven’t had to have those conversations lately because she’s being aggressive. She’s becoming a better defender every single game, and as she experiences the Big Ten too, she’s learning.”

That process has included getting to know a new set of teammates. Shoup-Hill is roommates with fellow Illini transfers Genesis Bryant (North Carolina State) and Aicha Ndour (Florida State College) in addition to Jada Peebles, who is now in her fourth season at Illinois as one of five holdovers from last season’s Illini roster.

Having older roommates, Shoup-Hill said, is beneficial. Shoup-Hill has used them as a sounding board, asking them for advice and leaning on their experience. Plus, Bryant, Peebles and Shoup-Hill regularly go to Ubben to get up shots outside of practice.

Defensively speaking, even as a skilled perimeter player, Shoup-Hill admitted to finding it challenging to guard forwards that play like her. It’s all been part of steep learning curve for the second-year player. One that Shoup-Hill is getting a better handle on as the final month of the Illini’s regular season approaches.

“I think I had a hard time just my (freshman) year getting used to college life and being away from home, but now I’m kind of used to the school part of it and I think it has translated over to the basketball side of it,” Shoup-Hill said. “I have connected more with my teammates this year, just being more comfortable and confident in myself, which I think just came with time and actually playing in games and figuring out my own style of game.

“Getting minutes in games, you can’t really replicate it in practice. At Dayton, I did a lot more playing in practice than in games. It’s a lot different actually getting both. I would say it’s almost like a complete 180.”

Joe Vozzelli

Sports Copy Editor

Joe Vozzelli Jr. is a sports copy editor at The News-Gazette. His email is jvozzelli@news-gazette.com.

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