4,549 points, 1,448 rebounds, 72 wins...and counting

March 4, 2009

Senior Night photo gallery

IOWA CITY, Iowa — In MacArthurian fashion, the five seniors on the University of Iowa women’s basketball team will return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena — just in time for the NCAA Tournament.

After dismantling Illinois 69-56 on Feb. 26 in the final regular season home game, the Hawkeyes took to the road and came back to Iowa City with a seven-point win at Northwestern. By closing with six consecutive victories, Iowa earned a second-place tie in the Big Ten Conference standings at 13-5 and will face No. 5 seed Minnesota on Friday, March 6, in the league tournament.

The Hawkeyes are currently 20-9 overall and any additional win or wins this weekend will solidify their seed at the NCAA Tournament — held at Carver-Hawkeye Arena — on March 22 and 24. Few teams in the country should feel comfortable tangling with Iowa. Not only are the Hawkeyes rolling with 12 wins in their last 14 outings, but the 2009 UI senior class is motivated to put on a few more shows inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The home court is a venue where seniors Wendy Ausdemore, Lindsey Nyenhuis, Megan Skouby, Kristi Smith and Nicole VanderPol are 13-1 this season, 26-4 the past two years and 44-15 for their career.

“This senior class is a special group,” UI head coach Lisa Bluder said. “They will leave here as one of the most productive classes and that’s significant.”

So far the five seniors have combined for 4,549 points, 1,448 rebounds and 461 three-point field goals in 485 games. That’s an average of 37.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 three-point field goals per the 120 games the Hawkeyes have played since the beginning of the 2005-06 season. Ausdemore, Skouby and Smith became the highest-scoring trio of players from the same team in the same class in Big Ten history (4,134 points and counting).

It was a successful Senior Night for the Hawkeyes, punctuated by a convincing win over the Jolette Law-coached Illini. Following the game, the microphone was handed to each of the senior players.

“I guess I’ll start it off and Skouby will finish. Kind of like how we run sprints,” joked Smith, before turning serious. “I’m leaving with a lot of close friends. I wouldn’t have wanted to go through it with anybody else. It’s been a blast.”

During the last four seasons, Iowa has won 60 percent of its games (72-48), qualified for three NCAA Tournaments and won the 2008 Big Ten Championship.

Nyenhuis was the last senior to be substituted off the court on Senior Night. Her contributions to the program extended far beyond the statistics page.

“I am not the best player on this team — I don’t know if you noticed that or not,” Nyenhuis said. “But son-of-a-gun, you fans sure had me feeling very, very special.”

Ausdemore and Smith played in all 120 Hawkeye games since 2005, Skouby played 116, Nyenhuis 67 and VanderPol 62. In all, it is one of the top groups of recruits in the Bluder era.

“All five stuck together and that’s pretty rare with today’s recruiting classes,” Bluder said.

The Hawkeyes and the senior quintuplets were nearly unbeatable at home this season, winning by an average of 15.4 points, including a 20-point decision over No. 22 Iowa State and a 10-point win over No. 13 Ohio State.

“Carver-Hawkeye Arena is the best place to play and you fans have made it a lot of fun,” Ausdemore said.

“We’ll see you guys back here in a month,” VanderPol told the black and gold faithful on Feb. 26.

Yes, it is true. VanderPol and the Hawkeyes shall return — just in time for the NCAA Tournament.