Iowa’s run in the Big Ten Tournament and the Hawkeyes’ game of musical heroes marched on Saturday as the Hawkeyes won for the third time in three days at the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
In Thursday’s tournament opener, it was junior Bethany Doolittle who played the starring role with a career-high 26 points.
Friday, it was freshman Ally Disterhoft and junior Samantha Logic who made big plays down the stretch in an 87-80 win over Purdue.
In Saturday’s semifinal win over eight-seeded Ohio State, it was the most fitting player of all who lifted the Hawkeyes.
The lone senior on Iowa’s roster, Theairra Taylor took her turn stepping into the hero’s role.
A fifth-year senior and the lone player on Iowa’s roster who was on the team the last time the Hawkeyes reach the Big Ten title game, Taylor scored a game-high 21 points and had the game-winning shot — an improbable shot-clock beating basket that snapped a 73-all tie with 1:29 left.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Taylor said. “I can’t think of a better script or a better team to be going to the championship with.”
On a team that has prided itself all season long on its balance, and features five players averaging double figures in scoring, Saturday was the consummate Iowa win.
Four players scored at least 16 points on Saturday and seven different Hawkeyes had a rebound.
Doolittle and Dixon carried Iowa early, each scoring 12 points in the first half.
Freshman Ally Disterhoft scored 18 points and had a team-high eight rebounds including boards on each of the Hawekeyes‘ final two defensive possessions.
Junior point guard Sam Logic scored just one point Saturday but had nine assists and just one turnover as Iowa committed only 11 turnovers as a team.
“Sam has never been about being about herself, it is all about, ‘I will do whatever it takes for our team to win this game. I don’t have to score a point, it doesn’t matter,’” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “And I think when you truly have that feeling, I mean, some people can say that, she lives it. ‘You need a rebound? Fine, I’ll rebound. I don’t need to score, I don’t need my name in the paper, I’ll do whatever it takes.’ And that’s I think her performance out there.”
That whatever needs to be done, from whoever needs to do it has Iowa playing for a Big Ten Tournament title for the fourth time in program history.
It also has lifted the Hawkeyes to 26 wins this season — the most ever for Bluder at Iowa and the most for any Iowa team since the 1995-1996 season.
That attitude has the Hawkeyes headed to the NCAA tournament for the seventh straight season.
“It’s just the next one in, the next one in,” Logic said. “Again we had foul trouble today, Beth had foul trouble, Theairra got in some foul trouble in the first half and I had four at the end, it’s just next person in, everyone comes in and does their job.”
Sophomore Kathryn Reynolds was the next one in Saturday.
With freshman Alexa Kastanek sidelined with an injury sustained Friday, it was the little-used Reynolds who got the call at point guard when Logic picked up her fourth foul with 9:43 left.
The stat line for Reynolds doesn’t look like much, but on this team it’s never about the stats.
“No stats are going to say what she did, but that’s just how she is, she just goes about her business,” Logic said of Reynolds. “Stats won’t tell how she played today. Those were huge minutes, huge minutes.”
Reynolds logged six minutes in relief of Logic and didn’t score a point, but in true fashion of this Iowa team she did exactly what she was asked to do.
“She just did what she had to do in her minutes,” Bluder said. “She held her own on defense, she didn’t make any mistakes. I thought her minutes were incredibly important.”
The obstacles keep coming at Iowa in Indianapolis in the form of injuries and foul trouble and the Hawkeyes keep pushing them away and moving on.
Iowa has a one more obstacle to overcome on its way to a Big Ten title and it comes in the form of No. 16 Nebraska.
The way the Hawkeyes has shrugged off adversity the past three days, it seems only fitting a team Iowa hasn’t defeated since joining the Big Ten is waiting in the finals.
A win against Nebraska today would be the Hawkeyes’ fourth win, and second over a top-17 team in less than four days.
“We just want to play,” Disterhoft said. “I think we have something to prove tomorrow and our goal is to just come out and play hard.”