INDIANAPOLIS (UI Release) – Illinois cut No. 23 Iowa’s lead to nine with 5:17 left in the game but missed its final seven shots as the fifth-seeded Hawkeyes pulled away for an 81-62 win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday. Amber Moore posted 26 points – her second-highest total of the season – and broke her own record for single-season three-pointers made with four in her final collegiate game (88 in the season). Moore also finished her career third in Big Ten history in made three-pointers with 295, passing Michigan State’s Lindsay Bowen.
“I thought we showed a lot of fight, and the stats showed that,” Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said. “We had 16 steals and 17 offensive rebounds, forced 24 turnovers, which showed a lot of fight. I thought the difference of the game was the end of the first half. It was 30-29 with two minutes left in the half, and to get out-scored 11-0 at the end of the half was really disappointing. That foul trouble with Ivory getting three and Jacqui hurt us that that first half and our bench didn't give us the lift we needed there as we went into the half. “
Ivory Crawford wrapped up her junior campaign with her third-straight double-double, notching 15 points and 11 rebounds, along with five steals and four assists. And Jacqui Grant posted 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting. But Iowa shot 54 percent from the field for the game, including 40 percent (6-of-15) from three-point range, compared to 31.9 percent from the floor and 27.6 percent (8-of-29) from deep by the Illini. The Hawkeyes also made seven more free throws than Illinois attempted, offsetting the 24 turnovers that Illinois forced.
Iowa got off to a quick start, leading 11-2 just over three minutes into the game and forcing the Illini into a timeout. But Illinois sorted out its defensive issues during the break in play, holding Iowa to only three points over a span of 3:45, as the Illini pulled within 14-9. The Hawkeyes got a pull-up jumper from Ally Disterhoft but Ivory Crawford followed her own miss and put it back to make the Iowa margin 16-11 at the under-12 media timeout.
Iowa opened up its lead to nine once again at 22-13 but Alexis Smith got a steal and drew a foul on the layup attempt, leading to two free throws that she made. Iowa hit a pair of free throws but Amber Moore drained a three, Crawford got a steal and found Ashley McConnell on the left wing for another trey that pulled Illinois within 24-21 and forced a Hawkeye timeout with 7:56 remaining.
After Iowa’s Ally Disterhoft made a layup following the timeout, the Illini rattled off six straight points to take their only lead of the game at 27-26 when Moore hit a jumper in the paint with 4:22 left. Iowa pulled back ahead and after Moore hit another jumper to cut the Hawkeyes’ lead to 30-29, Iowa went on an 11-0 run to finish the half with a 41-29 lead.
With the Hawkeyes ahead 45-32 early in the second half, Crawford made a pair of layups to pull the Illini within nine. And Illinois pulled within 49-41 at 14:04 when Crawford hit two free throws. But Iowa scored the next seven points and went on a 17-3 run to open up a 66-44 lead as the Illini went 1-of-10 from the field over 5:15.
Illinois battled back once again, though, as Nia Oden snapped the run with a 15-footer and Crawford got a steal that led to a trey by Jacqui Grant. The Hawkeyes got a bucket but Ashley McConnell countered with a three-pointer. After an Iowa free throw, Crawford hit the front end of a 1-and-1 then made a layup. After another miss by Iowa, Moore hit a runner in the paint. Then Grant got a steal and missed a three-pointer, but the Illini retained possession and Grant hit a trey with 5:17 left to pull Illinois within 69-60.
But Melissa Dixon made back-to-back baskets to snap Illinois’ run and the Illini went cold, missing their final seven shots and committing four turnovers as Iowa finished the game on a 13-2 spurt for the 81-62 final score.