Illinois senior guard Amber Moore is eager for the Illini to prove themselves in Big Ten play, which starts Friday night at State Farm Center against Wisconsin.
CHAMPAIGN — Amber Moore is working on a strict deadline.
If the most prolific three-point scorer in Illinois women’s basketball history is to experience what it’s like to win a Big Ten title, it’s this season or never.
“Obviously, it’s my last go-around,” the fifth-year senior said Thursday after practice at State Farm Center, “so it’s going to be very important for me to get off to a good start.”
Moore’s final quest for a Big Ten championship begins today, when the Illini (7-6) take on Wisconsin (7-5) at 7 p.m. in both teams’ conference opener at the Farm.
During Moore’s previous four seasons with the UI program, Illinois never has finished higher than a tie for fifth place.
As the lone senior on a 14-player Illini roster, the 5-foot-11 wing brings a particular urgency to the task.
That, and a long-range shot that has produced a program-record 254 three-pointers.
This season, Moore has averaged 3.62 three-pointers per game, which ranks sixth in the nation.
But the Detroit native’s contributions in her final college campaign go far beyond sharpshooting from the arc.
Playing the best all-around basketball of her Illini career, Moore ranks among the Big Ten’s leaders in scoring, steals, free throw percentage and defensive rebounds.
Folks outside the UI’s Ubben Basketball Complex are taking notice, too, with Moore earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors twice already this season.
“Being the only senior on the team, I have to be able to play with confidence and show my teammates that I have their back,” she said, quickly adding, “and they have mine.”
As the Illini’s near-.500 record reflects, they experienced an inconsistent run through the preconference schedule.
The emphasis now, Moore and Co. say, is to apply the lessons learned in their first 13 games — including four against current Top 25 teams — and to appreciate the fresh start that the Big Ten race offers.
“It’s a new season. Everyone’s 0 and 0,” Illini junior guard Alexis Smith said. “The competition we’ve played in the (preconference) was good competition. ... I think it was a learning process, and I honestly think we grew from those games and we saw that we can compete. We can do this.”
Amber Moore is counting on it.