U’s Iverson is overlooked by Big Ten again

by Aaron Kirscht

The Gophers’ Angie Iverson walked all over the competition for much of the season, leading the Big Ten in rebounding and finishing fourth in scoring.
Her individual numbers made a case for being named conference player of the year. Still, it was hardly a surprise when she was named to the coaches’ All-Big Ten third team and the media’s second team. Iverson has been overlooked all season.
During the weekend of Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, in games against Purdue and Ohio State, Iverson scored a total of 51 points and grabbed 21 rebounds. She shot a combined 72 percent from the floor and led the Gophers to their first Big Ten win in 33 tries.
No matter. Northwestern’s Michele Ratay, who scored 41 points and had 13 rebounds in a pair of wins, was named Big Ten Player of the Week.
The same situation occurred a week later, when Iverson’s numbers were clearly superior to the eventual Big Ten Player of the Week winners, Penn State’s Shauntai Hall and Purdue’s Jannon Roland. The only difference? Penn State and Purdue had clearly superior records.
Gophers coach Linda Hill-MacDonald felt her player was snubbed. After Ratay was named, she called in a complaint to the Big Ten offices. A week later, she wrote a letter to Jim Delaney, the Big Ten commissioner.
Hill-MacDonald criticized the selection process and criteria, saying they placed too much emphasis on the performance of the team, not the individual player. She even suggested a team of the week award to prevent future occurrences.
But it was easy to see that same emphasis in the selection of Roland for Player of the Year. After the Gophers’ 80-75 win over Wisconsin in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Friday, Hill-MacDonald was asked if Iverson was snubbed again with a third-team selection.
“That’s a real simple question to answer,” she said. “Yes. Absolutely.”
Iverson shrugged when she was asked if she felt likewise.
“I don’t know,” she said. “If they overlook me, I’m just going to go out and grab 15 boards. I just go out and play.”
And play she did. In two tournament games, Iverson averaged 19 points and 14.5 rebounds.
It’s a toss-up
The Big Ten coaches selected Purdue’s Nell Fortner as coach of the year, while a media panel gave the nod to Illinois’ Theresa Grentz.
Fortner took a Boilermakers team that had lost seven players from last year’s squad and delivered a share of the Big Ten regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. When Grentz took over the Illinois program two years ago, the Illini hadn’t had a winning season since 1986. They finished 20-6 and were ranked nationally for much of this season.
In retrospect, Grentz seems to have a leg up on her peers. Purdue and Fortner lost to Indiana in the first round of the tournament, while Illinois, the No. 3 seed, reached the finals after beating the Gophers on Saturday and on Sunday No. 2 seed Michigan State.
But Illinois fell short of a true Cinderella season on Monday, falling to Iowa 63-56 in the Big Ten tournament finals. Iowa, last year’s regular season champ, is the first team other than Penn State to win the conference tournament, now in its fourth year.
Words of inspiration
After whipping Minnesota by 22 points, Grentz spoke kindly of the Gophers. Although Minnesota handed over an obscene 40 turnovers, she complimented the team — and most notably, coach Hill-MacDonald — on their performance this season.
“I know in our business we look all the time at wins and losses,” Grentz said, “but I think that when you take what (Hill-MacDonald) and her staff has done to maintain a high level of morale for those players, it’s a credit to them.”
Illinois’ Ashley Berggren, last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year and a first team selection this season, agreed.
“I’ve been in the same situation as Minnesota, and I know their mentality,” she said. “They go all out and give it all they can. Some people looked past Minnesota and expected we’d play Wisconsin (in the second round), but I never put it past them. They can be a tough team.”
Odds and ends
Wisconsin’s Amy Wiersma riddled the Gophers for 17 points and nine rebounds in their first meeting. On Friday, she had five points, zero rebounds.
Iverson’s 344 rebounds are the most ever for a Minnesota player since 1981 when the Big Ten incorporated women’s athletics. Iverson is fourth on the Gophers’ all-time single-season list. Her 643 rebounds are ninth all-time at Minnesota.
No specific time has been set for women’s athletics director Chris Voelz and Hill-MacDonald to discuss the season and its implications for the future.