Iowa picture-perfect on Senior Day


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Buried underneath all off the ceremony, all of the emotion, and all the tearful goodbyes in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Sunday’s 92-76 win over Minnesota was a pretty important game for the Iowa women’s basketball team.

True, the Black and Gold clinched a second-round bye in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament by defeating Wisconsin on Feb. 26 (the Hawks will play at 6 p.m. Friday), and with the conference standings more or less set, the Hawks were in no real danger of jeopardizing their postseason chances with a loss.

It was a meaningless game in the standings, but one that could not have meant more to Iowa.

Seeking a proper sendoff for their four dynamic seniors, a shot at a perfect 16-0 home record, and a chance for revenge against the team that physically manhandled them two weeks prior, the Hawks delivered in a big way, downing the Gophers and their all-everything center Amanda Zahui B.

“First and foremost I’m happy we got the win,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It was just a great win over a good team that has been playing really, really well lately.”

Bluder probably could not have dreamed up a better start for her team. A couple of huge defensive stops by Beth Doolittle followed by a pair of back-to-back 3s from Melissa Dixon and freshman Whitney Jennings helped put the Hawks out to an early 8-0 lead.

But Zahui B. and the Gophers were quick to demonstrate why their last meeting against the Hawks turned out the way it did; they rebounded well and were out-muscling Iowa down low.

Just like that, things were even at 23.

Both sides continued to battle back and forth for the remainder of the game, with the Hawks owning a 42-37 advantage at halftime before pulling ahead late in the second to put the game away.

Spurred by her hot start, Dixon finished with a team-leading 27 points.

“My teammates did a great job of finding me and getting me the ball,” she said. “We found some gaps, and they kind of left me open a couple of times.”

A stylistic clash for the ages, Minnesota’s physical, dominating post presence went up against the lethal perimeter attack the Hawkeyes have used all year.

“It’s nice to get the win after the way we played at their place,” senior Bethany Doolittle said. “It wasn’t what we quite wanted to do, obviously, so it was special to get it tonight.”

Fittingly, Iowa’s core four did most of the heavy lifting in their last home game at Carver, a place in which they first donned the Black and Gold some four years ago.

Eight 3s from Melissa Dixon, double-doubles from Logic and Doolittle, and a last minute curtain-call for senior cocaptain Kathryn Reynolds wrapped up the win for the Hawkeyes.

The first-year law student hit a deep 3 in the waning moments of the game to cap off an emotional performance.

They don’t make them any more perfect than that.

“It’s pretty cool; I don’t think you can write a better story line,” Bluder said. “You have three 1,000 point-scorers but then Kathryn comes up and nails the 3. It was a special moment.”

And for Reynolds, whose role on the team changed dramatically after chronic knee problems, the ending of the game — and the seniors’ time at Carver –—was that much sweeter.

“Just to see that shot go in and hear the crowd’s reaction was something I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” she said.

Follow @ryanarod on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s basketball team.

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