Simon: Wildcats put faith in Moore

Andrew Simon

There are many ways to measure excellence in a basketball player, and frankly, Craig Moore does not stack up all that well in many of them.

As his former teammate Tim Doyle likes to point out when analyzing games on the Big Ten Network, Moore is not the most athletic guy on the floor.

But the senior guard works hard, understands the system and does one thing incredibly well: shoot the 3-pointer. Coming into Saturday’s game against Iowa, he had converted at least one trey in 38 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in the nation. He had knocked down at least three in 16 of 26 games this season, including nine against Brown in November and seven against Ohio State a couple of weeks ago.

But what’s truly amazing about Moore is that he has inspired his team to have confidence in him, no matter what. If that wasn’t clear before NU’s 55-49 victory over Iowa, it is now.

Saturday was Senior Day, and the Cats’ four seniors were honored in a nice ceremony before their final contest at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Whether Moore was dealing with too many emotions from the ceremony, with an interrupted pre-game routine or just with some tough defense, he was not himself, missing his first seven shot attempts, all from beyond the arc.

At this point, coach Bill Carmody could have pulled Moore, or his teammates could have looked for somebody else. But the Cats have too much faith in their senior leader.

With 6:20 to go in the game and NU clinging to a one-point lead, Michael Thompson took the ball in transition, spotted Moore open on the wing and fed him the rock. With a defender charging at him, Moore fired up a 3-pointer, not looking the least bit gun-shy.

Afterward, he disputed his apparent self-assuredness and passed along credit to his teammates, which he almost always does in interviews.

“I didn’t have confidence,” Moore said. “But my teammates had the confidence for me, and if I’m open and I don’t take it I know I’m either going to come out or Kevin (Coble) is going to give me an earful. So when they give me a look like that, I got to take it.”

Moore’s shot swished through the net, and the Cats had a four-point lead.

But Iowa came back to tie the game and Moore missed his next two shots. With NU back up by two and the clock creeping under one minute to play, Coble drove and the defense collapsed toward him. He got the ball to his 1-of-10 teammate.

“There’s still no one I would rather have out there shooting those 3s for us, and over the course of the game I think a lot of it is just going to even out,” Coble said of Moore. “He’s going to make those shots … he’s probably one of the most special shooters I’ve seen as far as just forgetting about the last shot and still shooting.”

Moore rewarded his teammates’ faith in him, receiving Coble’s pass and draining the 3-pointer that put the Cats ahead by five. Later, he calmly sank a pair of free throws to ice the game and finish with 11 points.

When the final buzzer sounded, Moore slipped away from the rest of the team, walked to center court and planted a kiss on the Wildcat logo, showing his appreciation for a building in which he has experienced so much.

The Cats already had shown how much they appreciate him.