INDIANAPOLIS — Senior center Angie Iverson stood outside the visitor’s locker room at the RCA Dome 20 minutes after the Gophers women’s basketball team’s 65-47 season-ending loss to Wisconsin in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Friday night, struggling to put into words what the last week of her career at Minnesota has been like.
She was dressed in street clothes, the same attire she had worn sitting on the bench and watching the last game of her Gophers career with the other six members of the team who were suspended for the game earlier in the week for violating a team rule.
“It was hard to sit on the bench and watch my team go out there,” Iverson said. “I felt like personally I disappointed them for violating the team rule.”
It was not the way Iverson, an All-Big Ten selection the past two years and the nation’s leading rebounder a year ago, imagined the last game of her senior year would go.
“You can never envision something like this,” Iverson said. “I’ve had my struggles here and there this year.”
The Owatonna native finished the season averaging 14.1 points and 7.9 rebounds a game, well below her career-high 17 points and 12.3 rebound average from a year ago.
This season Iverson was removed from the starting lineup by first-year coach Cheryl Littlejohn for five games because of defensive lapses and a lack of effort on the court, and for being inconsistent at times.
But the low point of her season and career at Minnesota was clearly her suspension for what would have been her last game with the team.
“It was embarrassing standing on the baseline and having people pointing at us and counting us off,” Iverson said. “You know, The seven suspended players.’ It’s been a hard week. It’s been real tough. But, it’s a learning experience. It’s a lesson I’m glad I learned now.
“I had total control over what I did. It was sad considering I missed what could of been and was my last game, but the guidelines were set out at the beginning of the year and we broke one of those guidelines and suffered the consequences.”
Angie’s father Dennis had planned to fly to Indianapolis to see his daughter end her Gophers career, but he canceled his trip because he was upset with her for breaking the team rule.
“I just told her, Angie, I’m not going to lie, I’m disappointed,” Dennis said, “but that doesn’t go against all you’ve done the last four years.’ I told her, You’ve made one bad decision, but look at all the things you’ve accomplished in your four years at Minnesota. You can’t forget about that.'”
The 6-foot center finished her Gophers career ninth on the program’s all-time scoring list and fourth in career rebounding, but is still haunted by Minnesota’s 24-85 record during her four years with the team.
“Three years of (losing) kind of takes its toll on you,” Iverson said. “But I’ve had a great four years here. I would have liked to have won more games, but I would never trade any of the experience.”
Iverson is interested in playing professionally in the ABL, WNBA or overseas in the future, but isn’t sure where or when.
She plans to graduate either this summer or in the fall and begin student teaching winter quarter to prepare for a career as an elementary school teacher. But no matter what she does after graduation, Iverson will never forget her playing days and the experiences she has had as a Gopher.
“I’m always going to keep in touch with everybody,” Iverson said, as tears began to well up in her eyes. “I’ve made such great friends. These are people who have helped me through the hard times. I’m never going to lose my Minnesota ties.”
Considering that she is a senior and the Gophers would have had to pull off an enormous upset on Friday for her to be able to play on Saturday following her one-game suspension, more than a few people at the tournament were wondering why Iverson even made the trip with the team and put herself through even more anguish and humiliation.
Before Friday’s game against Wisconsin, one Illinois player in attendance was overheard telling another one, “I wouldn’t have come here if I was Angie Iverson.”
“That never crossed my mind,” Iverson said. “I made a mistake. I let my teammates down. I couldn’t do that to my teammates. I’ve been here for four years. Minnesota has done so much for me.”