CHAMPAIGN — Amber Moore will never catch former teammate Karisma Penn on the Illinois women’s basketball all-time rebound list.
No surprise there, given that Penn concluded her career last season as the second-most prolific rebounder in program history.
For one night, however, the 5-foot-11 Moore was the equal of Penn on the latter’s best night ever on the boards.
And if you can’t brag about 19 rebounds to a friend, what can you brag about?
“I might issue her a text,” Moore said with a sly smile that soon broke into a hearty laugh.
Moore’s record-book-worthy work on the boards Thursday night was no laughing matter to Mississippi Valley State. Neither was her game-high 27 points in a runaway 93-70 Illini victory at State Farm Center.
But UI fans — and a growing number of Illini opponents — are hardly surprised when the fifth-year senior goes on a scoring binge. Or when the program’s career record-holder for three-pointers fires in six treys, as Moore did on this night.
But 19 rebounds? Only seven times in the history of UI women’s basketball has a player grabbed more in one game. And now Moore shares this in common with Penn, who racked up 1,043 rebounds during her stellar career: each has the exact same single-game high for rebounds in an Illini uniform.
Before Thursday, Moore’s previous best was 10.
“(We’ve) challenged her to go to the boards and be a rebounder,” said Illini coach Matt Bollant, who has expressed concerns this season about his team’s rebounding. “She’s got great hands and good instincts. The ball seemed to end up in her hands a lot (Thursday night). (It’s) just having heart. Going in there and fighting.”
Moore snared 16 of her rebounds on the defensive end, showing quick reactions to the ball off the glass and on the floor.
“It's not about size, you know; it’s about the technique,” she said. “Obviously, I’ve showed (Thursday night) that I can do it, so that’s going to be something that I work on each and every day in practice.”
While Moore was having a career night on the boards, freshman teammate Jacqui Grant was enjoying her own as a scorer.
The 6-3 center finished with 22 points — 10 above her previous high — while also contributing seven rebounds and four steals. Perhaps most exciting for Grant, she sank her first three-pointer after starting her UI career 0 for 6 beyond the arc.
"Thank God,” said Grant, who didn’t stop there, going 3 for 4 on treys. “Knocking that first three down, that was like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. ... After that, I got really confident and just played.”
Bollant has repeatedly said that Grant is capable of stretching a defense with her outside shot.
“She’s had some really good looks (in past games) and had some go in and out, so it was as great for her to make some shots and really play a complete basketball game,” the Illini coach said.