CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Jada Peebles is in a new role for the Illini this season but the senior guard is thriving coming off the bench, helping Illinois win its 10th game before Christmas for the first time since 2006-07. The Illini (10-2, 1-1 B1G) starting five have paved the way for the early success, led by Dayton transfer Makira Cook’s 17.9 points per game, but the bench has made big contributions as well.

Peebles started more than 50 games the past three seasons for Nancy Fahey but first year Illini head coach Shauna Green has played the Raleigh, N.C. native off the bench, something she’s embraced.

“I didn’t think I would at first but eventually it kind of grew on me and now I like being that extra energy or that extra spark that comes off and shoots the 3s or makes a stop on defense,” Peebles said. “I like being that needed player right off the bench.”

Peebles may not be one of the first five players on the court but she’s playing starters’ minutes, averaging 27 minutes per game. Combine her 8.4 points per game with Genesis Bryant’s 13.1 points per game, and the Illini have a formidable ‘second unit’, something important to Green.

“I just know that any of our great teams that I’ve coached or championship teams that we’ve had, we’ve had people come off the bench that bring a spark and you can’t just have five players if you’re going to be really good,” Green said.

Illinois returns to the court Wednesday hosting a matinee at State Farm Center, with tip-off against Florida Atlantic scheduled for 12 p.m.