Theairra Taylor knows her college basketball career is nearing its end.
The fifth-year senior made sure that Sunday’s NCAA tournament opener wouldn’t be her final time in an Iowa uniform.
Taylor poured in a game-high 22 points Sunday as No. 19 Iowa (27-8) rolled past 11-seed Marist 87-65 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
“I definitely think about that,” Taylor said. “If we didn’t win, I wouldn’t be waking up to go to the next practice with the team, so it feels great.”
The Hawkeyes’ lone senior was 8-of-11 from the field.
Taylor had a career-high five 3-pointers finishing 5-of-8 from beyond the 3-point line Sunday as Iowa shot 48 percent from 3-point range.
“People kind of think of her as a slasher, and when she is able to put the 3-pointer down, she is tough to defend,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
Iowa’s lone senior, Taylor added seven rebounds as Iowa finished with a 41-23 rebounding edge.
Taylor’s steal and a layup with 4:41 left in the opening half gave Iowa a 30-23 lead and ignited a Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd of more than 5,800.
The layup by Taylor capped a 6-0 Iowa run that turned a one-point lead into a seven-point Iowa advantage.
Marist (27-7) never got closer than six points the rest of the game.
“The crowd really got into it, and I think that fed over to our players on the court,” Taylor said. “That was big.”
Taylor had 19 points in two NCAA tournament games last season, including 10 in Iowa’s second round loss to top-seed Notre Dame.
The 5-foot-11 guard had 11 in the first half Sunday, hitting four of her first six shots, on her way to an NCAA tournament career-high.
“Theairra, in my opinion, has played her best basketball in the NCAA tournament the last several years,” Bluder said. “You go back to last year against Notre Dame, the year before against California, and she had great games.”
Taylor, who has overcome three major knee surgeries during her time at Iowa, will attempt to keep her career alive Tuesday when Iowa faces No. 4 Louisville at 8:30 p.m.
“They are a great team,” Taylor said. “I’ve seen them play numerous times on television. They have great players, but it’s just another team in the NCAA tournament where upsets happen.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball