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Pat Harty: Now is the time to fill Carver-Hawkeye Arena

[ 0 ] March 20, 2014 |

I normally don’t like to tell Hawkeye fans how to spend their money or their time, but this is one exception.

And it won’t cost a lot a money or take a lot of time.

The Iowa women’s basketball team deserves a strong turnout Sunday when it faces Marist in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

And by strong, I mean at least 10,000 fans creating a hostile environment by hooting and hollering from the stands. There were almost 4,000 tickets sold for Sunday’s game as of noon Thursday at prices ranging from $10 to $18.

Some fans will immediately roll their eyes and dismiss my request simply because they believe that supporting a women’s basketball team at any level is beneath them. That attitude has festered for quite a while and won’t let up in some circles.

To each his own, but I’m reaching out more to the fans who could be talked into attending Sunday’s game with a little encouragement.

Women’s basketball never will be played above the rim or with the same physicality and flamboyance as its male counterpart. But that still doesn’t make it boring.

The current Iowa team, which is 26-8, is anything but boring.

It’s led by one of the most versatile and toughest point guards in the country in junior Samantha Logic. She is arguably the best passer among all the Hawkeye basketball players, men or women, a triple-double waiting to happen.

You also won’t find a more courageous or determined player than Iowa senior Theairra Taylor. She easily could have quit playing basketball after suffering three serious knee injuries, but she chose the harder route of battling back from each setback and now is being rewarded for her perseverance.

The 5-foot-11 Taylor still is one of Iowa’s most athletic players despite her knee problems. She excels at scoring in transition and off dribble penetration. Taylor is ranked second on the team in steals (56) and 3-point baskets (43) and third in blocks with 18.

Junior guard Melissa Dixon is one the top 3-point shooters in the Big Ten, while 6-4 junior Bethany Doolitte has developed into an all-Big Ten post player.

Rounding out Iowa’s starting five is 6-0 freshman Ally Disterhoft, a former star at West High and a lifelong Hawkeye fan. Disterhoft appreciates the opportunity to play at home. She knows that fans can make such a big difference in how the game is played if enough show up.

“It’s a huge opportunity and I think that it’s really advantageous because we are going to have that fan support here, so hopefully, we can draw a great crowd for Sunday night,” Disterhoft said. “Fans, they really do impact the game, they help you to victories and I think that we are really going to use our fans in the tournament.”

Another reason to attend Sunday’s game is out of respect for Iowa coach Lisa Bluder, who this season became Iowa’s all-time winningest basketball coach for men or women. She has led the Hawkeyes to a Big Ten-best seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and has done it with class, humility and dignity.

Bluder is a credit to her profession and to her employer. She wins on a consistent basis. Her players graduate on a consistent basis. And she’ll never embarrass or bring shame to the university.

Her players are more likely to show up on an honor roll than the police blotter.

From an entertainment standpoint, this Iowa team with Logic running the show, Dixon draining 3-pointers and Taylor slashing to the basket is well worth the cost of admission. The Hawkeyes led the Big Ten in scoring this season at 78.6 points per game, with all five starters averaging in double figures. Bluder’s bunch truly epitomizes what it means to be a team.

Unlike the Iowa men’s basketball team, the Iowa women weren’t considered a lock to make the NCAA Tournament entering the season. The women had a depleted roster and little size, but they compensated with good shooters and mental toughness.

This marks the second year in a row that Iowa City will host an NCAA women’s regional. Last year’s regional drew 6,386 fans, which ranked third among the 16 hosting sites.

Iowa State is also hosting an NCAA regional this weekend and you can assume that it will be well attended. There were approximately 6,000 tickets sold as of mid-Thursday afternoon, according to the Iowa State sports information department. Iowa’s fan support in women’s basketball is solid compared to most schools, but Iowa State’s is a cut above and has been for a while for reasons that are still unclear.

Iowa State’s home attendance has grown from 733 fans per game in the season before coach Bill Fennelly took over in 1995 to more than 10,000 now.

I’m not asking Iowa fans to make a season-long commitment, but rather to climb on the NCAA Tournament bandwagon while there is still time. It would be a shame and embarrassing if Iowa’s attendance Sunday pales in comparison to Iowa State’s attendance on Saturday.

Bluder’s bunch deserves better than that.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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