Women’s Basketball: Hot-shot Moore hustles Illinois past Northwestern

Steven Montero

Amber Moore was absolutely relentless Monday.

Moore quenched a more-than-five-minute drought for both Northwestern and Illinois in the opening stanza with her first triple of the night, which put the Fighting Illini ahead by a humble 5-2. On the shoulders of their guard, the Fighting Illini would leap past the Wildcats and clinch the victory, 69-57.

Moore amassed 31 points over 33 minutes of play for her career-high number of points. In the first half, she went 100 percent from behind the arc at 4-for-4. At one point she almost had more points than all the players in purple, making 22 compared to NU’s 25.

“She made some shots with people on her, and we left her open at times,” coach Joe McKeown said. “She just had a big night. We just didn’t do a very good job as a team defending them, and then she made us tight. She had a night. She just had a night and went off.”

In contrast to Moore’s performance, NU did not play like the team that upset then-No. 16 Nebraska at Lincoln on Thursday.

McKeown said the Cats were “flat” for an unknown reason. Even Dannielle Diamant, NU’s top performer against the Cornhuskers, couldn’t make any offensive retaliation for most of the game.

The junior forward would earn 16 points and 8 rebounds for the Cats. NU tried to give her the ball early in the game, but her shots weren’t falling, going 6-for-15 from the court overall. McKeown said the Fighting Illini forced the inside presence out of the lane and made it tough for her to score.

Diamant said Moore’s first-half dominance was “a little disheartening” and that NU let Illinois take control of the game.

“It made us focus more on playing our type of game and buckling down and doing what we did,” Diamant said. “I wouldn’t say that we had to play risky, but anytime a team gets up by 20 points you do have to buckle down and you have to play defense.”

The Fighting Illini reached a 20-point lead five times throughout the night. Freshman guard Morgan Jones said Illinois played a great shooting game.

Jones said Illinois players who normally don’t do much still hit shots. Only one of the on-court Fighting Illini players didn’t add points to the scoreboard, and Illinois got 53 points from its bench.

“They came out fired up,” Jones said. “We beat them by 1 point last time, which was probably a hard loss for them. They’ve been playing really well lately. We were in their house, it was their senior night. Definitely the momentum was going their way and I don’t think we recognized the situation that we were in.”

Once again turnovers plagued NU. The Cats had 14 in the first half and added 8 in the second. The Fighting Illini took the ball down the court to score 17 points off of NU’s mistakes.

Jones said Illinois was very “athletic” and “in your face all the time” but the Cats need to control the ball and keep it on their side of the court.

“Any aspirations for us in postseason, we’re going to have to take better care of the basketball,” McKeown said. “Whether it’s that we were sloppy or their defense was good; it was probably a combination of both.”

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