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When the curtain came down on Lindsey Moore's last Devaney Center act Sunday, the best point guard in Nebraska women's basketball history made sure the last line in her postgame Senior Day speech was an assist, not a shot. Nearly 11,000 fans saw Nebraska's Big Ten championship loss to No. 7 Penn State, and nearly all of them stayed to watch Moore be honored with fellow senior Meghin Williams.
"Double Zero" used the occasion to offer some personal advice for "the best fans in the nation". After saying goodbye to the Devaney Center on Sunday night, Moore put in a plug for Big Red loyalists standing on their feet to buy season tickets at the new Pinnacle Bank Arena in the downtown West Haymarket Area. "Thanks Lindsey, director of marketing," deadpanned Connie Yori, who, less than 24 hours later, was voted Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year by her colleagues, who also voted Jordan Hooper first-team all-conference and Moore second-team all-conference - the same league award each received last year.
"All postseason awards are about teams more than individuals," Yori said, acknowledging that Moore's incredible stats include the honor of having played the most minutes of any women's player in Nebraska history and leading her teams to the most wins in Husker history. Moore's value, though, goes well beyond any statistic or number. Lindsey's legacy is rooted in her heart, her habits and her humility.
Moore Shows Her Heart in Every Game
I asked two fans in front of me Sunday why they thought Moore was getting such a sustainable standing ovation after the disappointment of losing a championship game. "Right here," one fan said, pointing to his heart. "That's what everyone loves about Lindsey - the heart she shows every time she takes the floor." Her heart is built from the habits she's formed since the day Moore arrived on Nebraska's campus. "Everybody wants to win, right?" Yori asked. "Everybody wants to win on game day and everybody wants to win in life. But not everybody is willing to put the time in to get better every day or to develop the work habits it takes to win. I think Lindsey leads by example every day in practice. We didn't lose a game in February - the toughest month in college basketball."
Such toughness starts at the point of attack, and Moore leads by example. She made 9-of-11 field goals Sunday and led the Huskers with 23 points, but Penn State repeated as Big Ten champion with a swarming defense that targeted Moore's ball-handling and Hooper's range of touches. And that leads us to the third "H" in Moore's character profile - her humility. She was her usual honest self in postgame analysis, heaping praise on Penn State shortly after she thanked Nebraska fans for their unwavering support "throughout our ups and downs."
Since it was the last women's game played in 37 years at the Devaney Center, Yori couldn't resist the nostalgia in her rear-view mirror. She remembers how fans gave the Huskers standing ovations even when they would lose by lopsided scores. They applauded "because we tried hard," Yori said. "There are a lot of wins and losses. But to me, the fans are what have made this place special. I truly believe we have the best fans in women's college basketball."
Moore, Hooper Make Teammates Better
Penn State Head Coach Coquese Washington, the media's choice for Big Ten Coach of the Year, said Nebraska has "two fantastic offensive players in Lindsey Moore and Jordan Hooper. They can get their shot whenever they want to, and they make tough plays. They make big shots, and they do a really good job of making their teammates better."
Nebraska's firepower has helped develop a rivalry between the two programs since Nebraska joined the conference. "It's a game that our fans enjoy watching," Washington said. "You have two teams that play similar styles and like to get up and down the court. I just think it's a great matchup. It's a fantastic basketball series, and it's fun to watch." Fun probably would not describe Nebraska fans who watched Penn State junior guard Maggie Lucas make a Devaney Center record eight three-pointers in her game-high 34-point performance. Respect was the more appropriate descriptor for a basketball savvy crowd whose collective groan grew louder with every long-range basket.
"This was a great environment to play in. They just have a great basketball culture here," said Lucas, who Monday was named 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year by both the league's coaches and the media. "It's great to see the amount of fans that come out and support women's basketball anywhere you go. It was a lot of fun to play here." The buzz inside the last women's basketball game at the Devaney Center was so palpable that about 8,000 early arriving fans gave a middle-aged man a resounding standing ovation for his three-point shooting prowess. He won a free night's stay in the downtown Embassy Suites at the same time Nebraska won the respect of the Big Ten's back-to-back champion.
Coach: Devaney Has NCAA Atmosphere
"In the NCAA Tournament, we're going to have to go on somebody's home court and win," Washington said. "That's what environments like this help. I love playing in the Big Ten. You get to go on the road, and this is an NCAA Tournament type of atmosphere." An atmosphere, I might add, that can work both ways. Penn State was the No. 1 Big Ten Tournament seed whether the Nittany Lions won or lost Sunday. Nebraska also had secured the No. 2 seed before tipoff. That means, barring upsets, the two teams could be headed to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game this weekend in suburban Chicago.
If that happens, don't dismiss Nebraska's chances to win, and please understand the importance Big Red fans might play, not to mention Nebraska's knack for being road warriors. The Huskers, after all, won seven of their eight Big Ten road games this season. And you know what the basketball gods say about beating the same team three times in one season. Nebraska may have lost its chance to share the conference title, but the Huskers can enhance their NCAA opportunities in a major way if they win the rematch.
Moore's leadership is contagious, and Nebraska's third-leading vote-getter on the All-Time All-Devaney team has added something to go with her heart, habits and humility ... the hunger to avenge a 74-70 double-overtime loss to Purdue in last year's Big Ten Tournament Championship in Indianapolis. Remember, that was the Huskers' fourth game in that tournament. This year, they only have to win three, and that means hope increases exponentially for the Big Ten's newest member. Since this is Nebraska's biggest chance to be a game-changer, I end with some advice of my own ... stay tuned. The excitement has only just begun.
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Voices from Husker Nation
Thank you for the ink. I am the middle-aged man (53) that made four three-pointers in a row to win the weekend at the Embassy Suites. It was a wonderful feeling to see and hear so many people cheering for me. I only wish I could have shared some of my shooting luck with Jordan. I enjoy your articles and look forward to next season with the ladies Sincerely, Bill Rethmeier, Crete, Nebraska