Feb. 24, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s an evening University of Iowa senior Kachine Alexander has dreaded since her arrival in Iowa City in 2007. For Alexander and fellow senior Kelsey Cermak, the Hawkeye’s game against Illinois tonight is Senior Night — their final appearance on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“No one wants to have their senior night,” Alexander says. “You don’t ever want to leave. If you ask any alumni who has come through this program, they can definitely say the same thing. It’s an honor to have been coached by the coaches we have and also to wear the Iowa uniform.”
With Alexander and Cermak on the roster, Iowa has compiled a record of 82-43 (65.6 winning percentage) and 44-24 in Big Ten Conference play with four wins in the postseason conference tournament and one in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes have won 20-or more games all four seasons and they are on the verge of their fourth consecutive NCAA appearance. The season before Alexander/Cermak, Iowa finished 14-16, 6-10.
“There’s so much more left of the season that you don’t think about it until that night,” Cermak says about her parting home game. “It’s going to be nice to thank the Hawkeye fans, but they’re still going to be supporting us for hopefully quite a few more games.”
Iowa (20-7 overall, 8-6 Big Ten) hosts Illinois (7-20, 2-12) tonight at 7:30 p.m. One of the 10 consecutive losses for the Fighting Illini was on Jan. 30 against Iowa, 80-69. The Hawkeyes have won 12 of the last 13 meetings in the series and for Alexander, there is only one way to put a more cheery spin on her final contest in front of the home crowd.
“A win,” she says. “That’s all that really matters to me.”
UI head coach Lisa Bluder says there are “all the right reasons” to come out to tonight’s game. Actually there are 7,464 reasons to attend. Not only is this a farewell for Alexander and Cermak, but a crowd of 7,464 will break the single-season attendance record of 83,945 set during the 1993-94 season.
“The best way we could send them off is to have a huge crowd, break that attendance record and beat Illinois,” Bluder said. “(An attendance record) says that people are excited about our program. I think it is a benchmark of where this program is heading and how far we’ve come.”
In 1993-94, the Vivian Stringer-coached Hawkeyes finished 21-7, 13-5 and defeated Mount St. Mary’s, 70-47, in the first round of the NCAA Championships before falling to Alabama in the second round, 84-78.
Iowa is ranked No. 13 in national attendance with an average crowd of 5,883. That figure is up significantly from 2009-10 when the Hawkeyes were 32nd in NCAA Division I with an average of 3,488 per game.
“This year our fans have stepped up to support us on a consistent basis,” Cermak said. “They know we really do appreciate everything they do for us and hopefully they’ll continue that.”
The Hawkeyes have won three straight games and following tonight’s contest they will have one regular-season road game remaining at Indiana (Sunday, Feb. 27). The Big Ten Conference Tournament runs from March 3-6.