Senior Amber Moore did her part, but Illinois couldn't solve Iowa at the Big Ten women's basketball tournament.
INDIANAPOLIS — With the final curtain poised to drop on Amber Moore’s college basketball career, the fifth-year Illinois senior did everything she could Thursday to delay the closing act at least one more day.
A longtime Illini nemesis, however, was having none of it.
Despite Moore’s game-high-tying 26 points, fifth-seeded Iowa retained its iron grip on this Big Ten rivalry with an 81-62 victory in the first round of the conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Hawkeyes defeated the 12th-seeded Illini for the second time in five days, the third time this season, and the 11th time in the last 12 meetings.
Iowa leads the all-time series 52-17, the most victories by an Illinois opponent.
“It’s just bittersweet,” said Moore, who played all but two minutes in her final game as an Illini. “I’m going to miss playing with my teammates and playing for the University of Illinois.
“This is a game that I love that I’ve been doing all my life. It’s hard knowing I won’t be able to put another (Illinois) jersey on, but I’m looking forward to the future.”
That future could include a pro career, and if any scouts were in the stands for this game, the Illini’s career and single-season three-point record-holder undoubtedly held their attention.
Moore shot 6 of 12 and scored 16 points in the first half, when Illinois rallied from a game-opening 11-2 deficit to briefly overtake Iowa.
Moore capped a personal six-point flurry with a jump shot to give the Illini a 27-26 lead with 4:22 left before halftime.
“I was just in a groove,” she said. “My teammates were finding me on the perimeter, and I was able to make some shots off the dribble.”
As it turned out, that would be Illinois’ lone lead of the game. Iowa closed the half with a 15-2 surge fueled by 6-foot-4 center Bethany Doolittle’s seven points and five by reserve freshman guard Ally Disterhoft to jump ahead 41-29.
Early in the Hawkeyes’ run, Illini starters Ivory Crawford (15 points, 11 rebounds, five steals) and Jacqui Grant (10 points) each picked up their third foul and were forced to the bench for the rest of the half.
“I thought the difference of the game was the end of the first half,” UI coach Matt Bollant said. “... To get outscored 11-0 at the end of the half was really disappointing.
“That foul trouble with Ivory getting three and Jacqui hurt us that first half, and our bench didn’t give us the lift we needed there as we went into the half.”
Iowa was forced to cope with foul trouble, too. Point guard and Big Ten assists leader Samantha Logic was limited to 10 minutes on the court in the first half after picking up her second and third fouls. The Hawkeyes junior, who entered with a team-leading 14.1-point scoring average, finished with five points.
But junior Doolittle helped pick up the slack, responding with a career-high 26 points while sinking 10 of 14 shots from the field.
“She had a tremendous game,” Moore said. “She attacked us late in the first half and just got it going for her team, and that gave them the momentum going into the second half.”
The Illini still had a couple of runs left in them, however, drawing within eight points a couple of times early in the second half. Later, an 8-0 UI run capped by Grant’s three-pointer cut the Hawkeye margin to 69-60 with about five minutes left.
But each time, though, the Hawkeyes answered the challenge.
“We battled,” said Bollant, noting that Illinois racked up 16 steals, grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and pressured Iowa into 24 turnovers. “I thought we showed a lot of fight, and the stats showed that.”
In the end, however, another statistical category was too much for the Illini to overcome. Illinois shot under 30 percent in the second half and 31.9 for the game, while an Iowa team that ranks first in the Big Ten in scoring and field goal percentage shot 54.0.
“Credit Iowa for making a lot of shots, and Doolittle played a really good game,” Bollant said, “but the shooting percentages really hurt us.”
Moore climbs chart. With four three-pointers Thursday, Moore moved into third place on the Big Ten career chart. The Detroit native finished her Illini career with 295 treys to overtake Michigan State’s Lindsay Bowen, who had 294 three-pointers from 2003 to ’06. Nebraska senior Jordan Hooper currently stands fifth on the list with 285.
Moore also established a UI single-season record for treys with 88, eclipsing her own mark of 86 that was set last season.
Future Illini advances. On the same day her future college team’s season ended, Brooke Kissinger moved one step closer to a possible state title.
The Illini signee scored 11 points and sank three of Minden (Neb.) High School’s 15 three-pointers Thursday in a 72-38 rout of Lincoln Lutheran. The triumph lifted the undefeated Whippets (26-0) into the semifinals of the Class C-1 state tournament at Lincoln, Neb.
Minden, which tied a state tournament single-game record for treys, will face Platteview on Friday.
Platteview (23-2) advanced with a 77-66 quarterfinal victory against Fairbury behind a C-1 state tournament-record 40 points by Kenzie Kulm.