LIVE! women's home opener

LIVE! women's home opener

Final: Illinois 87, Valparaiso 59

The Illini even their record at 1-1 with a victory in their home opener. 

Amber Moore, who took sole possession of the UI career three-point field goal record, led Illinois with 23 points. Four of her teammates finished in double-figures.

The Illini outrebounded Valpo (0-2) 39-37 and forced 27 turnovers.

Check back later for a full game story.

****

7:38 left in second half:

Illinois 64, Valparaiso 45

Hero: Free throw shooters

Neither team can complain about how they're fairing at the line; Valpo is 11 of 13, 84.6 percent;  Illini are 9 of 12, 75.0 percent.

Goat: Valpo ball handlers

Repeating, I know, but the Crusaders are up to 24 turnovers; too many due to carelessness.

What I'm thinking:

-- Not a good sign when the crowd cheers louder for a timeout promotion -- mini-basketballs thrown into the stands -- than during the game.

-- Matt Bollant getting a chance to look at different combinations. One of the benefits of a big lead.

-- Will be interesting to hear what Matt Bollant thinks of this game. Still looks like there is lots of work to do.

***

12:55 left in second half:

Illinois 59, Valparaiso 36

Hero: Ivory Crawford

We'll give this to the Illini's top rebounder., with five. She's helping the Illini stay close on the boards, 28-24.

Goat:

Valpo three-point shooters

Illini aren't exactly light's out from arc either, but Crusaders are now 1 for 9.

What I'm thinking:

-- Good to see Amber Moore hit another three-pointer. On her historic night, just one trey wouldn't have exactly been what you expect from the Illini's career record holder.

-- Former Illini Adrienne GodBold in the crowd tonight. I stopped to quickly say hi. The 2012-13 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year had been playing pro ball.

-- This second half has pretty much been a stand-off. Illini not building on their halftime lead. Have to be disappointed with that.

Halftime:

Illinois 47, Valparaiso 24

 

Hero: Sarah Hartwell

The Illini point guard continues to be Miss Proficiency on offense. After shotoing 8 of 10 in the opener, Hartwell is 5 for 7 and has scored a game-high 10 points. Also has three assists.

Goat: Jessi Wiedemann

The Valpo forward might consider backing off on the three-point attempts. She's 0 for 5 behind the arc and 1 for 7 overall.

What I'm thinking:

-- Another strong game from Illini freshman Jacqui Grant. The center has nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.

-- Illini on pace for their second 90-point-plus game in as many tries. If this team can solve some of its defensive deficiencies, the outlook gets a lot brighter.

-- Nine turnovers at halftime is good for this Illini team. It tries to play fast, and turnovers come with the territory when you run up and down the court. With lots of new faces on the roster, too, players are figuring out how their teammates operate. That can increase the TO count early in the season, too.

8:29 left in first half

Illinois 26, Valparaiso 13

Hero: Amber Moore

We're sticking with the UI career three-point shot record holder, but not because of her historic trey. Moore has yet to make another three, but she's scoring in other ways. Has game-high nine points.

Goat: Valparaiso ball handlers.

The Crusaders are up to eight turnovers and not all of them were while pressured.

What I'm thinking:

-- Rebounding was an Illini concern after their exhibition and their season opener. Getting outboarded 10-8 so far.

-- I wrote this during the exhibition live game report, but there is a lot to like about Illini freshman guard Taylor Gleason. Has four points and one assist off the bench,and  contributing in other ways.

-- Illini proved in the season opener they can score, and tonight looks like more of the same. Shooting over 60 percent (11 of 18) so far. Taking advantage of some loose Valpo defense, so that's part of it.

15:11 left in first half

Illinois 13, Valparaiso 9

Hero: Amber Moore

The Illini senior made history with a three-point basket with 16:40 left. The bucket gave Moore sole possession of the UI career record for treys. It was her 215, breaking a tie with Lori Bjork (2005-08)

Goat:

Defense

Neither team exactly playing lock-down D to open the game. Too many open looks and too many easy drives to the basket.

What I'm thinking:

-- Pretty sparse crowd tonight. Maybe it's the sub-freezing temps outside. Maybe the opponent. Maybe UI fans know they have three opportunities to see the Illini at home today through Sunday.

-- Under other circumstances, Sarah Hartwell would have been our Hero at this point. The Illini point guard, who scored 18 points in 22 minutes in the season opener, has six of the UI's 13 points.

-- Illini bench gave Moore a big reaction after her history-making three. It is a big deal.

****

Welcome to our live report from State Farm Center on tonight’s women’s basketball game between Illinois and Valparaiso.

The Illini (0-1) will try to bounce back from a season-opening 98-92 loss at Bradley on Friday.

Nothing wrong with the offense, but Illinois’ defense was AWOL in the second half, permitting 57 points. The final point total was the most scored against a UI women’s basketball team since Penn State racked up 101 on Feb. 15, 2001.

The Illini should even their record against a Valparaiso team that was down to seven players in uniform for its opener and was picked to finish last in the nine-team Horizon League in the conference’s preseason poll. The injury-depleted Crusaders (0-1) will dress eight players tonight after adding a walk-on -- junior track athlete Jazmin Taylor, who played high school basketball -- to the roster.

In its opening loss to Saint Louis, Valpo was down to five players at game’s end after two starters fouled out.

Illinois was no stranger to foul trouble in its opener, either. Of the seven players who saw the court, two fouled out.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Illinois at Peoria. Freshman center Jacqui Grant produced a double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds) in her first collegiate game. That was particularly important to the Illini because fellow post Sarah Livingston was limited to 13 minutes by foul trouble before fouling out.

Point guard Sarah Hartwell was the other Illini to foul out, and her absence particularly hurt Illinois. The redshirt sophomore transfer from Georgia Tech shot 8 for 10 en route to 18 points, but she was limited to 22 minutes. It might have been a different outcome if Hartwell had stayed on the court. Maybe Illinois scores more than 100 points.

The Illini racked up 12 three-pointers in their opener, tying a program record. The trey was important to the success of last season’s Illinois team and might be more so this season, especially if freshman posts Grant and Livingston are inconsistent on offense. Given their inexperience, you have to expect some ups and downs, particularly on offense.

This should be a historic night for Illini senior wing Amber Moore. With seven three-pointers against Bradley, Moore needs just one more to take sole possession of the UI career record for treys. She enters tied with Lori Bjork (2005-08) with 214.

In addition, Moore became the 26th player to reach 1,000 career points during the Bradley game. She now ranks 25th on the all-time Illinois career scoring list with 1,012 points.

Illinois went 11-7 at home last season but closed with a rush, winning six of its last seven home games. With their next four games at home against teams they’ll be favored against, the Illini have a good opportunity to extend that streak.

We’ll update this report periodically during tonight’s game so be sure to check back.
— Jeff Huth

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