Illini women’s basketball season ends at hands of Iowa

Illinois+head+coach+Matt+Bollant+looks+toward+his+players+during+the+Illinis+loss+to+Michigan+State+at+Assembly+Hall%2C+on+Sunday%2C+Jan.+13th%2C+2013.

Illinois’ head coach Matt Bollant looks toward his players during the Illini’s loss to Michigan State at Assembly Hall, on Sunday, Jan. 13th, 2013.

Illini women’s basketball senior guard Amber Moore said she wanted to leave her mark on the Big Ten and its tournament — and she did.

Unfortunately for Moore, she only had one chance to make a statement, as Illinois ended its season with a loss in the first round of the tournament against Iowa, 81-62.

“It’s tough just knowing that this is my last game in college, and just being able to play with my teammates and knowing I can’t play anymore,” Moore said. “It’s emotional, but I think as a team we fought, and that’s all you’ve got.”

Moore did everything she could to keep the Illini in the game, scoring 26 points with four 3-pointers and two assists. Illinois had no answer for Iowa’s 6-foot-4 center, Bethany Doolittle, who had a career day on the offensive end. Doolittle matched Moore’s point total for a career-high 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

“I think our lack of size hurt us, and Grant just not being physically as strong,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “When (Doolittle) got touches, she was able to finish, and I think they threw it over the top a few times and just our inability and lack of size to be really able to contest her. She’s gotten a ton better.”

Foul trouble limited junior guard Ivory Crawford and freshman forward Jacqui Grant, both of whom fouled out. Crawford, who has been the Illini’s leading scorer in conference play, saw 32 minutes of action and chipped in with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. It was her third straight double-double and her fourth of the season. Grant played 23 minutes and scored 10 points in her second game back after returning from mono.

Defense was an issue for Illinois once again. In the first half, the Hawkeyes shot the lights out from three, hitting 4-of-7. Once the Illini made adjustments at the half, the Hawkeyes attacked the paint, feeding Doolittle frequently for a 62.5 percent mark from the field to secure the win. The defining moment of the game came at the end of the first half, when Iowa made an 11-0 run to take a 12-point lead. The deficit eventually ballooned to 22 points, but Illinois made a 16-3 run that ended with five minutes left in the game to bring Illinois within nine. The run was cut short by fifth fouls from Crawford and Grant.

“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,” Bollant said. “But obviously the shooting percentages, if you’re looking at that, jumps out at you as well. Credit Iowa for making a lot of shots, and Doolittle played a really good game, but the shooting percentages really hurt us.”

Blake can be reached at [email protected]