Five seniors set for last Carver hurrah and en route to major record


Five Iowa seniors will say goodbye to Carver-Hawkeye Arena tonight when the Hawkeyes face Illinois.

On Senior Night, Nicole VanderPol and Lindsey Nyenhuis as well as the trio of Wendy Ausdemore, Kristi Smith, and Megan Skouby — who are six points away from becoming the highest scoring trio in Big Ten women’s basketball on the same team and graduating in the same class — will be honored.

“That’s a great honor,” Ausdemore said. “It goes to show how great this class was and even the effect that we had as freshmen, and then over the four years how we’ve continued to work and grow as a team.”

Although the No. 1 issue for Ausdemore and the Hawkeyes (18-9, 11-5) will be taking care of the Fighting Illini (8-19, 4-12), the Neola, Iowa, native said she hoped each of the three seniors would score two of the initial six points so each could have a hand in breaking the record.

The Fighting Illini have lost two straight, but on Feb. 8, they upset a heavily favored Indiana (17-9, 10-7) in Bloomington, Ind. Illinois also has a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate in junior Jenna Smith, who averages 18.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

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“This is one of those teams that have four wins, and two of them have been over Indiana, a team that we split with. They’re a dangerous team because we beat them on their floor,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “Jenna Smith is by far one of the better post players in the league, and we’re going to have to do a great job on her.

“I want my seniors focused on this game, and that’s why we do our senior ceremony after the game.”
It might not be too hard for Bluder to persuade the senior class to focus on tonight’s contest. Not only is improvement in the Big Ten standings at stake, but also a right to continue their season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena following next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Should the Hawkeyes make the NCAA Tournament, they will be guaranteed a spot in the Iowa City regional — the university has been designated as one of the host campuses for the tourney’s first and second rounds.

“It’s not as emotional knowing that the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament are here,” Smith said. “It’s really sad to think about [the last home game].”

The only time that all five seniors have been on the court at the same time was as freshmen in a 77-71 overtime victory against Purdue on Feb. 2, 2006.

“I remember we just looked at each other [in the Purdue game] and thought this is the way it’s going to be for the next four years,” Ausdemore said. “Just to have all five of us out there one last time, it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Bluder said the circumstance would have to be right in order for all five to be on the court at the same time. VanderPol, who has been cleared to played especially for Senior Night, has only played two games all year because of an injury to her knee.

“I really hope it happens again, and I don’t really care if it’s at the end of the game,” VanderPol said. “Just being able to be out there with the four women I came in with is going to be a lot of fun.”

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