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Chloe Moore-McNeil rose to the opportunity for IU women against Purdue

Chloe Moore-McNeil has been an understated weapon for IU women’s basketball all season.

The junior entered the starting lineup this season after coming off the bench as a sophomore. And though her stats will rarely jump off the page, she’s played a key role in IU’s success. She’s held a steady hand in controlling the action when running the point, is one of the team’s best defenders, and rarely makes the wrong decision.

Moore-McNeil’s importance was clear during IU’s 69-46 win at Purdue Sunday.

“I thought Chloe did a tremendous job of handling herself, not just hitting the threes, but also taking opportunities to attack, as well,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “I’m really proud of the way she handled herself.”

Moore-McNeil scored 13 points, the 11th time in 23 games she’s scored in double figures. But the timing of those points was important. They all came in the first half, while Purdue was shutting down All-American Mackenzie Holmes.

The Boilermakers double-teamed Holmes on every touch, aggressively denied any entry passes, and just took the forward out of the game in the first half. They willingly gave up open looks to IU’s guards in an effort to defend one of the Big Ten’s best players.

And Moore-McNeil rose to the opportunity. She shot 5 for 10 in the half, including 3 for 8 on 3-point attempts. IU led by just five at halftime, and that was largely because of the junior’s performance.

Moore-McNeil enjoyed breakout performances last year in both meetings with the Boilermakers, and she kept that run going Sunday. But she doesn’t approach any game differently because of the opponent, even a rival like Purdue.

“I try to bring my A-game every single game,” Moore-McNeil said. “We know this is a big rivalry. But we come in with the same game plan every time, to play hard, no matter who it is.”

As Holmes got going in the second half, Moore-McNeil took a back seat in the scoring offense. She missed her only attempt in the second half. But IU didn’t need her to keep shooting.

The Hoosiers just needed her to do what she does every game: make good decisions, set up her teammates with opportunitities, and play good defense.

Moore-McNeil has proven to be one of the most effective facilitators in the country this season — entering Sunday’s game, she ranked third in the nation with a 3.36 assist-to-turnover ratio, and 33rd in the nation with 5.05 assists per game.

She stepped into a bigger role during the eight-game stretch when Grace Berger was out with a knee injury, and she increased her production while doing so. Moren already trusted Moore-McNeil, but the way she played with Berger out further justified that feeling.

“When Grace got hurt, she was my MVP, because she had to slide over there and run our team,” Moren said. “And I think it’s benefitted her, on a lot of counts, because now I can play Grace at the point, I can play her off the ball, it’s a great luxury to have, because now Chloe is really in tune with our sets offensively.”

And then there’s the defense. IU’s identity is formed on that end of the floor, and Moore-McNeil is as big a part of that as anyone.

She was already a good defender last year, part of a stable of guards Indiana could throw at top opponents. Her length provides a useful tool on defense, and she uses it to her advantage.

But Moore-McNeil has gotten even better at defense this year. She’s gotten smarter and sees the game better. She racked up five steals against Purdue, tying her season high, and putting her at 1.85 steals per game in conference play.

“She’s such a great anticipator,” said Moren, after IU’s win over Maryland in January. “She has those long arms, athletic. And she has, we call it high activity in the gaps. She understands scouting report defense. She understands rotations, where she needs to be.”

As IU heads down the home stretch searching for its first Big Ten regular season title in 40 years, Moore-McNeil’s defense will be crucial.

Two of the last five games for the Hoosiers come against Iowa, the team they’re directly battling for first place. And the Hawkeyes, of course, have Caitlin Clark, one of the toughest defensive assignments in the country.

Clark had memorable battles with Indiana last year, as she had lively back-and-forth affairs with IU alum Nicole Cardaño-Hillary. IU used several defenders against Clark in those games, including Moore-McNeil.

That’s likely to continue — Sydney Parrish will likely get matched up on Clark at times, as well. But Clark could very well be Moore-McNeil’s primary responsibility on defense in those games, including Thursday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

It’s almost impossible to completely shut down Clark. But if Moore-McNeil — and her teammates — can find success in limiting the Iowa star, that could be the difference in those games.

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