Feb. 25, 2014
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It should come as no surprise Saturday when Theairra Taylor scored the first five points for the University of Iowa women's basketball team when it faced a 13-0 deficit on the road.
Taylor's back has been against the wall before, overcoming three ACL surgeries, so climbing out of an early hole against Michigan was nothing.
The Hawkeyes (21-7 overall, 9-5 Big Ten Conference) went on to win their 21st game of the season, setting up a Senior Day matchup Thursday against Ohio State (15-15, 5-9). Taylor, from St. Paul, Minn., is the lone Hawkeye senior.
"If anyone deserves to have their own day, it's (Theairra)," junior teammate Samantha Logic said. "As much as she might not like it, this is going to be all about her for one day."
The game is the final regular-season appearance for the Hawkeyes on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The University of Iowa is a host site for NCAA Tournament first and second round games March 23-25.
Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but for Taylor, that would be the case only if there were diamonds on the Big Ten Conference Tournament trophy.
"I don't want to leave anywhere without that hardware," Taylor said. "It wouldn't be a successful career for me."
"People have done a lot for me and I don't express it that often. This is an opportunity for me to thank people for believing in me when I really didn't believe in myself. They kept telling me things I needed to hear."
UI senior guard
"Every game is huge for us," Bluder said Tuesday at a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "If we win out this week we would have a chance to finish in sole possession of fourth and that means a first-round bye. All we can control is ourselves and we know if we win out we're at least tied for fourth. Pretty important week."
An important -- and emotional -- week.
"It's a tug having to say goodbye to Theairra," Bluder said.
Taylor said a highlight of her career was checking into the final two minutes of Iowa's 90-81 win against Harvard on Nov. 12, 2011. That was her first action since returning from a third knee injury. In typical Taylor fashion, she handed out two assists during that span.
"I got a standing (ovation) from our crowd and that felt good to know I had come back and it was my return," Taylor said.
She can expect another standing ovation Thursday. After playing 103 games and scoring 795 points, Hawkeye fans get to see Taylor one more time at home -- until March 23.
"I want to send her out on a good note," Bluder said, meaning a UI victory, a good crowd, and giving Taylor an opportunity to be recognized.
Taylor said she returned to the game when injuries made quitting seem logical because of Bluder, the Hawkeye program, and her teammates.
"People have done a lot for me and I don't express it that often," Taylor said. "This is an opportunity for me to thank people for believing in me when I really didn't believe in myself. They kept telling me things I needed to hear."
Ohio State snapped a five-game losing streak Sunday when it defeated Northwestern, 71-62. Bluder said the Buckeyes have improved their outside shooting since Iowa defeated them 81-74 on Jan. 19 in Columbus, Ohio. Ameryst Alston averages 21.1 points per game.
Taylor logged a team-high 37 minutes on the court during the first meeting with Ohio State. She scored 11 points with seven rebounds. While the Hawkeyes know how important a victory is for their postseason posturing, it is equally as important to them to send Taylor off a winner.
"The players love her. They want to win for Theairra," Bluder said.
"We're hoping for a good ending to her career," Logic said.
Action on Thursday begins at 6 p.m. (CT); the game will be televised by BTN.
"I'm grateful and blessed to be able to play again after having the game taken from me," Taylor said. "It's a feeling you can't explain."