Amber Moore scored 17 points in the first half vs. the Wildcats
Feb. 20, 2012
Champaign, Ill. - Illinois honored its four seniors before Monday's home finale with Northwestern then started the foursome against Wildcats. It was sophomore Amber Moore, however, who helped make sure Senior Day would end on a good note. Moore scored a career-best 31 points, including a 5 for 7 effort from three-point range, as the Illini defeated Northwestern 69-57.
With the game in an offensive stalemate, tied at 2 and 5 ½ minutes into the game, Moore drained her first two three-pointers in a matter of 90 seconds as Illinois zoomed to a 10-2 lead. That helped ignite an Illinois offense that shot 51.2 percent for the game, including 64.7 percent from the floor in the second half.
Moore scored many of her points with strong defensive pressure, sinking a step back three on one occasion then hitting a deep three in the corner with a hand in her face on another. When the Wildcats had the three defended, Moore drove in and scored on short jumpers or scoop shots.
"Amber's been coming in the gym and working extra on her shot lately," Law said. "I told her she needed to be more offensive-minded. I know that once she hits one or two, we have to keep feeding it to her."
"I thought tonight our defense created our offense," Moore said. "We were able to get aggressive and get in the passing lanes then able to score on the other end."
Illinois led by as many as 16 points in the first half at 25-9, but with Northwestern making a mini run toward the end of the half, freshman Ivory Crawford dished to Moore for a three-pointer and later Moore blocked a breakaway lay-up as the buzzer sounded. That gave Illinois a 34-20 cushion at the break.
Defensively, Illinois held Northwestern to just 20 percent from the floor in the first half (5-25). The Wildcats were finally able to get to the rim on a couple of occasions early in the second half. However, Moore responded by scoring five straight points and senior Lydia McCully (6 points, 8 rebounds) finished a fast break with a successful drive to the basket to give Illinois (11-17, 5-10 B1G) its biggest lead of the night at 45-25.
Although Northwestern (14-13, 4-10 B1G) picked it up offensively, Illinois kept the pressure on with hot shooting, making 11 of 17 field-goal attempts and 12 of 15 shots from the line (80 percent) in the second half to secure the victory.
While Moore set the tone offensively, sophomore Adrienne GodBold did so defensively for the Illini, scoring nine of her 13 points and collecting all five of her steals in the first half.
Morgan Jones (16), Dannielle Diamant (16) and Kendall Hackney (15) scored 47 of Northwestern's 57 points on the night.
For the Illinois senior class, it was a memorable night and a great way to go out.
"I don't really have any words for it," McCully said. "I think I realized how much tears and sweat I put in here at the University of Illinois. I really love this place, so it was a really emotional moment."
"It was such an emotional night," fellow senior Lana Rukavina said. "We are so grateful for all the things the University of Illinois and Coach Law has given us. To realize this was the last game in front of our fans, it's very tough to deal with."
"These seniors committed to the previous coach and could have decided go elsewhere, but they didn't," Law said. "I committed to them as well. We've been through a lot these four years. It's very emotional for me."
Illinois still has a chance to tie for eighth place in the Big Ten with a victory on Sunday at Wisconsin in the last game of the regular season.