Taylor's swan song


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Theairra Taylor said on Tuesday that, while the fans were thanking her, she wanted to thank them. 
She did just that — and more — with her best performance of the season Thursday night: a home court win over the Ohio State Buckeyes. With a slim 2-point lead and under 30 seconds remaining in the game, guard Sam Logic dribbled the ball into the lane and bounced passed the ball underneath the basket, finding — who else? — Taylor for the game-clinching, left-handed lay-up. 

“Some fan would meet me at the tunnel and say they couldn’t wait to see me back, and that motivated me,” Taylor said in her postgame speech, referring to her desire to return to basketball after three ACL tears. 

The St. Paul, Minn., native may have a quiet, humble personality, but her performance against the Buckeyes was anything but. Iowa’s lone senior finished her final regular-season home game with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, and a block. It was a swan song.

“It was Theairra’s night,” head coach Lisa Bluder said. “This was the night for her … but most importantly, we wanted to honoree [her].” 

It almost looked like the result of Taylor’s night would be bleak, but key contributions from the senior in all categories of the box score kept Iowa’s hopes for the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament alive. 

No play was bigger than her steal and fast-break lay-up with 2:13 to go. The basket gave Iowa a 63-59 lead, and the 3,500 crowd members jumped to their feet. 

“I always love the steals that lead to baskets,” Bluder said. “To me, that’s a lot of fun. She got her hands up, she got her hands in the passing lanes in the zone.” 

Taylor got into the scoring column for the first time with 14:15 remaining in the first half with a 3-pointer that made the score 12-10 and gave the Hawkeyes their first lead of the game. After a Buckeye turnover, the high flying Iowa offense got going in transition, and freshman Ally Disterhoft found Taylor at the top of the key for the go-ahead bucket.

It was nothing but net, of course.

Taylor is a quiet person and a quiet player. She’s averaging almost 11 points a game because she takes the shots that the team needs and nothing more. She hit that average near the start of the second half against Ohio State, and never stopped going. It was a culmination of potential erased by injury, a showcase of gratitude, a defining performance. 

“Grandma” has seen the last of Carver for at least a few weeks. Next is a matchup against Illinois on March 2 to conclude the regular season, and next week the team will begin its quest for a Big Ten Tournament title in Indianapolis. 

The NCAA Tournament also awaits the Hawkeyes, and with it, up to two more games, likely in the friendly confines of Carver.

“It was a huge win for our team at this part of the season,” center Bethany Doolittle said. “Especially because we could do it here, at home, for Theairra in her last home game here. Everyone was super happy and jumping around [in the locker room]. It was a great environment.” 

As for the game against Ohio State? Iowa’s lone senior said she could not have imagined it being a better night and yet remained her humble self, crediting her teammates. 

“Maybe [I would have] not sweat so much during the end there,” Taylor said and laughed. “But it was a great game. Everyone played hard.”

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