Historic season for SLU ends in first round NCAA Tournament loss at Iowa

  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon

Ayla Guzzardo

IOWA CITY, Iowa – No. 15 seed Southeastern Louisiana University’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament with a 95-43 first-round loss to second-seeded Iowa in front of a capacity crowd of 14,382 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The Southland Conference regular season and tournament champion Lady Lions finished their first conference championship campaign in program history with a 21-10 overall record. The Big Ten Conference tournament champion Hawkeyes (27-6) advance to face Georgia in the second round Sunday at 2 p.m. on ABC.

“We were very blessed to be on this stage, as getting here was a goal of ours when we took over this program,” Southeastern head coach Ayla Guzzardo commented. “Despite the result, we played hard on both ends of the floor and overall I’m proud of the fight this team showed today and throughout this season.”

Cierria Cunningham led Southeastern with 15 points in her final game as a Lady Lion. Her fellow senior Chrissy Brown added eight points, while leading SLU with eight rebounds and three steals. Taylor Bell contributed nine points off the bench. After a solid start in the opening half, Southeastern finished with a 25.7 percent (17-for-67) field goal shooting.

“We struggled around the rim and from the three,” Guzzardo said. “(Iowa) went zone and we weren’t able to make enough threes to free up our inside game.”

Iowa, the nation’s top scoring offense and leader in field goal percentage, played to form against the Lady Lions, connecting on 60 percent (36-for-60) of their field goals and used a lethal inside-outside combo. Big Ten Conference Player of the Year Caitlin Clark finished with 26 points and 12 assists, while Monika Czinano and Hannah Stuelke contributed 22 and 13 points, respectively, as Iowa had a 54-18 advantage in points in the paint.

“Iowa is going to be hard for anyone to guard,” Guzzardo commented. “We have played some great bigs during the regular season, but we haven’t played anyone at the guard spot like Caitlin Clark. There’s a reason she’s a top contender for (national) Player of the Year.

“When (Natalie Kelly and Bell) fouled out it was tough for us to be able to both front the post and be in help side,” Guzzardo continued. “They were just able to catch it and score over us.”

Southeastern played the Hawkeyes fairly evenly through the opening half of the first quarter, as a Chrissy Brown basket cut the lead to 12-8 with five minutes left. Iowa would outscore SLU, 16-9, over the final five minutes of the period to take a 28-17 advantage after one.

The Lady Lions would not allow the Hawkeyes to pull away in the second quarter. Iowa would stretch the lead to as many as 16, but SLU was able to chop the advantage to 40-29 on a bucket by Taylor Bell.

Iowa closed the first half out strong, however. The Hawkeyes capped the second period with a 14-3 run to go into the break up, 54-32.

The third quarter was all Hawkeyes. Iowa closed out the period on a 19-3 run to take a 77-41 lead into the final 10 minutes. The fourth quarter saw the Hawkeyes hold Southeastern scoreless for the first seven-plus minutes, until a steal and layup by Jen Pierre.

The Lady Lions finished with the program’s first 20-plus win season since the 1994-95 season. Guzzardo and her SLU team will return seven letterwinners from this season’s squad, including three-time All-SLC performer and Southland Tournament MVP Hailey Giaratano, SLC All-Defensive selection Pierre and SLC All-Tournament pick Bell.

For more information on Southeastern Women’s Basketball, follow @LionUpWBB on Twitter, like /SoutheasternWBB on Facebook and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.

  • < PREV Coaches All-District 10-2A Boys Basketball Team
  • NEXT > Reese leads LSU past Hawai'i in NCAA first round win