Murken: Perfect ending to Iowa's home slate
Forget about fitting farewells or straight-out-of-Hollywood storylines, neither have anything on the scene Sunday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa knocked off Miami 88-70 with an efficient second-half offensive performance that bordered on perfection to secure its first Sweet 16 trip in 19 seasons.
Yet, it wasn't just the win or the long-awaited Sweet 16 trip for the Hawkeyes that made Sunday's win as storybook as they come, but the way the Hawkeyes did it.
If you've followed this Iowa team for the past few season, you could see why this one had it all.
Melissa Dixon hit big 3-pointers, Bethany Doolittle blocked shots and pulled down rebounds and Ally Disterhoft slithered to the hoop for layups as Iowa capped a perfect 18-0 season at home.
Then there's senior point guard Samantha Logic.
A fan favorite, one of the best to ever wear the Iowa uniform, Logic didn't disappoint in her final game at Carver.
It wasn't the best statistical game for a player that seems to flirt with triple-doubles nearly every time out.
But the more than 7,000 fans that came out for a final glimpse at the Hawkeyes' four seniors saw vintage Logic on Sunday.
Logic lost part of a tooth, again, and didn't skip so much as a possession on her way to a very Logic-like 12-point, seven-assist, five-rebound performance.
"I don't think you could write it better," Logic said. "18-0 at Carver our last year, winning our last game here, having a great crowd. I don't think we could have written it better and I don't think we would want it with any other team. It's just so special and we are so happy right now."
Sports has a way of producing moments like Sunday.
That time when you can't help but marvel at what you've witnessed, smile at what you're watching or root for a group that seems so deserving.
Sunday was that time and even Miami coach Katie Meier knew it.
"It was the team destined to go to the Sweet 16 the way they were playing," Meier said of Iowa's 75 percent second-half shooting.
Meier was right, this was a team destined for the Sweet 16.
After back-to-back blowout second-round losses, there was a sense early Sunday that this group wasn't going to suffer a similar fate.
Iowa was out-toughed in a 30-point loss to Louisville in last year's second round.
Led by Logic the Hawkeyes were junkyard-dog type tough against the Hurricanes.
"I think we felt a little 'not today,' " Logic said. "That's just the type of day it was."
Miami is a talented young team with lightning-quick playmakers like Jessica Thomas and Adrienne Motley.
Sunday was about the veterans on the Iowa roster.
In their final shot at a spot in the Sweet 16, Dixon, Doolittle and Logic combined for 46 points and 21 rebounds.
"We can't ask for anything more, it's like a Cinderella story ending, seriously, today is so special," Dixon said. "Especially with this group of girls, I think that is what makes it the most special, this program with these coaches, it makes it really special."
Let's not forget the coaches.
Lisa Bluder has done amazing things in her 15 seasons at Iowa.
She has directed the Hawkeyes to the NCAA Tournament 12 times and has won 304 games at the school.
Before Sunday, zero of those wins had come after the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"Do I look a lot lighter? I think there's a monkey off my back," Bluder, who was previously 0-5 in second-round games at Iowa, said. "I feel like I might look a little bit lighter right now. You know, we've been there so many times, and just not been able to finish it."
Bluder talks often about playing Iowa basketball.
The longtime Iowa coach could label a tape of Sunday's game simply "Iowa basketball."
Iowa's win over the 11th-seeded Hurricanes was Bluder Ball at its finest.
It was 40 minutes of unselfish, team-oriented, fast-paced, fun-filled basketball that seems to be a fading brand of hoops.
Five players scored in double figures, bench players made big plays and the six Hawkeyes that didn't get into the game hooted and hollered at every basket.
"You come to practice, and you give everything you have to practice without the reward of getting in, which is everybody's ultimate reward, that's hard work," Bluder said. "That's mental toughness right there."
As Iowa players soaked in the win and Iowa fans begrudgingly filed out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena knowing they watched this senior class for the final time in person, Meier was paying the Hawkeyes the ultimate compliment in her postgame press conference.
"I'm joyful for Lisa Bluder and her staff, because I know how they operate, I see them recruiting; I know what class they operate with," Meier said. "I know those kids work hard. Those seniors on that team came here with a dream and I think they can go a long way."
When even the opposition is rooting for a team, how can you not?
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.