IOWA CITY — Thursday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena belonged to Theairra Taylor.
She took advantage of it and relished every moment.
Finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds, four steals and four assists, Taylor was the leading scorer for the Iowa women’s basketball team on Senior Night, recording her season-high point total in a 65-61 Big Ten victory over Ohio State.
“Most important thing, it was Theairra’s night. This was the night for her,” Coach Lisa Bluder said. “This was a win for the Hawks, kept us in contention for fourth place in the Big Ten, but most importantly we wanted to honor Theairra.”
The first half was a back-and-forth battle for the lead, with the biggest deficit being when the Hawkeyes were down 10-5 five minutes into the game. But that didn’t last long. Bethany Doolittle and Ally Disterhoft put up back-to-back layups, and Taylor made a 3-pointer for a 7-0 run and a lead for the Hawkeyes.
The game was tied six times in the first half, and one of them was broken with 10 seconds left when Doolittle jump shot make it 36-34 at halftime. Doolittle went on to total 12 points in the game on 5-of-13 shooting.
Eight minutes into the second half, that lead had disappeared when the Buckeyes went up by seven after converting four free throws and a couple of layups.
“I saw the game kind of get away from us and I was trying to pick it up defensively,” Taylor said. “That’s the only place you can really do it.
“Offense has to come through too, but defensively you can make that happen.”
And Iowa responded with seven steals that led to eight points to erase that deficit and take a 52-51 lead.
“I always love the steals that lead to baskets,” Bluder said. “To me, that’s a lot of fun.
“(Taylor) got her hands up and got her hands in the passing lanes in the zone and made some great deflections. But anytime we get that steal is great.”
Iowa ended the game with 15 steals and 20 fast-break points, compared to Ohio State with six in each category.
Bluder said it’s on those fast breaks when the Hawks are at their best.
“(Those steals) definitely feed into our offense,” Doolittle said. “It kind of gets us hyped in the offensive end and pushes us in transition to get easy baskets. Our team feeds off of those tips really well and gets energy going.”
Fittingly, Taylor made the play to salt this one away. With less than 30 seconds left and Iowa leading by three points, Taylor drove for a layup to secure Iowa’s first sweep of Ohio State since 1998.
Taylor said she couldn’t have asked for a better Senior Night and wouldn’t change a thing.
“I mean, maybe not have sweat so much toward the end,” Taylor said with a grin. "But it was a great game. Everyone played hard, and I am happy.”Iowa improved to 22-7 overall and 10-5 in Big Ten games as it prepares to take on Illinois (9-19, 2-13) on the road Sunday to close the regular season.