LINCOLN — The origin of Nebraska guard Lindsey Moore’s best move on a basketball court — the very one that gave NU a shot at the Big Ten title Sunday — dates back more than a decade, to a girl watching the NBA on TV.
Though Moore grew up in suburban Seattle as a dyed-in-the-wool Sonics fan, this game featured the New Jersey Nets. Lindsey’s dad, Rich Moore, would often ask her: What do you see on the court? Who catches your eye?
“I like that No. 5,” Lindsey remembers saying. “He’s really good.”
Jason Kidd threw a no-look pass to a teammate. And Lindsey wanted to try it. So she and dad headed outside.
“The first 100 were terrible,” Moore said four days before her final Husker home game at the Devaney Center. “They were just nowhere near him. But he’d just stick with it and go get the ball.”
It’s probably there where Moore began to refine the court vision that NU coach Connie Yori calls rare. And it’s in those hours as a kid when Moore would work on the daring, off-balance layups that have defined her late-game heroics at Nebraska. The shots, Yori said, that some kids don’t always like to take.
When Moore, with 45 seconds left and the shot clock winding down, threw a no-look pass to Hailie Sample for a game-winning basket over Wisconsin, it was her practice and natural savvy syncing up to lead Nebraska to its 10th straight win. And if Moore and the Huskers can win their 11th straight game Sunday against league leader Penn State, she’ll be the first NU player to start for two conference champs.
By starting Sunday, she’ll tie Kelsey Griffin’s school record for consecutive starts with 127. She tied Griffin for career wins in beating Wisconsin. She owns the school record for career minutes. She’s No. 2 in career assists, No. 9 in career steals and No. 11 in career scoring. She’s a two-time finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award that recognizes college basketball’s best point guard.
It’s unknown whether Moore’s season stat line — 14.7 points, 5.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game — will win her the Big Ten player of the year award; she’ll have to beat out teammate and best friend Jordan Hooper, for one. But Moore’s impact goes beyond those numbers, Yori said.
“She doesn’t like to lose,” Yori said.
“She’s definitely a competitor,” Hooper said.
Even in the offseason. Moore said she hunts daily for a pickup game. She’ll go down to Nebraska’s Campus Recreation Center and find a court. Since she’s better than 99.9 percent of the women on campus — only Hooper, at this point, could compare — she plays against guys.
“My favorite time to go to the Rec is after I haven’t been there for a while,” Moore said. “You see a lot of new faces. You get the freshmen who don’t really know me. They always put the worst boy on the floor on me. And I just sit there and I laugh. No one wants to guard me. You’re in a lose-lose. If I embarrass you, that’s embarrassing because I’m a girl. But if you’re better than me, it’s because you should be.”
They’re usually not better. Moore sticks a couple of 3-pointers to bring a defender close. Then she blows by him for a layup. Those freshmen then know: She’s a ballplayer.
Yori relies on that gamer mentality. The 11th-year head coach asks plenty of her guards, most of all stamina. Moore has averaged at least 34 minutes per league game in each of the three past seasons. She is asked to play tough defense without getting in foul trouble. And late in games, the ball inevitably ends up in Moore’s hands, and Yori asks her to make a play.
“She is so willing to take big shots,” Yori said. “Not all players want to do that, either. You’re going to fail sometimes ... but you’re going to have to take it in order to make it.”
Moore actually picked NU because Yori, unlike other college coaches, played down the spotlight that Moore would eventually inhabit. Yori offered little more than a role. Still, Moore started her first career game on a team that won the Big 12 title and advanced to the Sweet 16. In that year, she got key tutelage, she said, from Griffin and Dominique Kelley, now a graduate assistant for the Huskers.
When Kelley got hurt early in the following season — derailing NU’s hopes for a return to the NCAA tournament — Moore and Hooper, a shy freshman from Alliance, had to carry a hamstrung team. The two became quick, close friends — “our backgrounds are completely different, so we balance each other out,” Moore said — and Moore began to evolve into a complete point guard, Yori said.
The past two years, Moore has helped break Nebraska into the Big Ten while teaching a boatload of freshmen around her. Instead of opting for surgery to repair an injured foot, freshman Rachel Theriot chose to play this year so she could learn from Moore. Yori’s also begun to consult Moore in the huddle for play ideas.
“I do that more frequently with her than I have with anybody in recent years,” Yori said.
Said Hooper: “Even Coach sometimes doesn’t see what Lindsey sees.”
Moore’s court sense has grown to the extent that she employs the no-look pass often, in far more scenarios than just a fast break. She’s used it on a quick lob over the defense to Hooper. Or when outside the arc, trying to set up a 3-pointer. Or when driving the ball into the lane, as she did Thursday when she hit Sample for the game-winner.
“Her knowledge and vision of the game is far superior to most kids that you coach,” Yori said. “I’ve had smart kids, and I’ve had kids who see things, but what sets her apart is not only does she have that knowledge and vision as to what’s going to happen next, she also has the skill set to put it into practice.”
That makes Moore a commodity in the WNBA draft. Mock drafts at draftsite.com and wnbadraft.net have Moore going in the first round. The draft is April 15, and the 2013 season starts this summer. And most top American pros head overseas after the WNBA season to play more basketball.
For now, Moore lets Yori keep a folder of all the items she’ll need after NU’s season is over. The point guard wants to see how far the Huskers can take this run. After that, she’ll be ready for as many games of basketball as she can play. She’s been on a court, in one way or another, whenever she could, for years.
“You get paid to do what you love — and maybe visit a country,” Moore said. “How cool is that?”
Contact the writer:
402-202-9766, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/swmckewonOWH