Hawkeyes match up against NCAA tournament first-timers Southeastern Louisiana

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 10:54 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - “When you’re playing in March Madness anybody is going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder,” Iowa junior guard Caitlin Clark said.

It’s no secret the Iowa women’s basketball team hopes to make a deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament. They believe they have the dynamic group to get them to the Final Four in Dallas.

“A lot of people have a lot of high expectations for us, but I think we have a veteran team and we know how to handle that. I believe that we can use that to our advantage as well,” said senior guard Molly Davis.

“I think a lot of people are rooting for the Iowa Hawkeyes which is really cool, but at the same time every game is going to be tough. That’s how it is,” Clark added. “I feel like we rank up there with some of the best team in America. We believe we can beat some of the best teams,” she added.

Their early exit against Creighton in the second round last season still haunts them. They’ve learned they have to be tough at this stage.

“Finding other ways to win, being mentally tough on defense, being mentally tough rebounding, being mentally tough when things don’t go your way, you don’t get calls - those are going to be super important. Those are some things we learned last year,” Clark said.

The Big Dance is nothing new for Iowa who is making their 29th appearance, but for their first round opponent, Southeastern Louisiana, this is their first time in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s been an amazing experience for me and the team. We’re just trying to enjoy every moment, but also lock in for the game,” Southeastern Louisiana senior forward Natalie Kelly said.

“We tell them to take all of this in the moment. When we step foot on the floor and we’re in between those lines, we have a job to do, but hey are enjoying this. They need to enjoy this,” Southeastern Louisiana women’s basketball head coach Ayla Guzzardo said.

The Lions come in with a defensive mentality only allowing 54.5 points per game, while the Hawkeyes lead the country in scoring offense.

“Playing Caitlin Clark is going to be fun for them. They are ready for the challenge. They are not necessarily starstruck. They want to compete and they want to defend and that’s what they do on a daily basis. It’s just another day for us,” Guzzardo added.

Iowa believes success will follow them as long as they stick to who they are.

“They are a really good defensive team. I think it’s going to be crucial for us to kind of get out in transition and just play Iowa basketball,” fifth-year senior center Monika Czinano said.