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After saying Iowa is ‘not a big defensive team,’ Southeastern Louisiana flustered by Iowa’s zone defense
Zone defense allows Iowa to ‘preserve our legs a little bit’ ahead of game against physical Georgia team
IOWA CITY — Southeastern Louisiana Coach Ayla Guzzardo did not have high praise for Iowa’s defense before the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
“They’re not a big defensive team,” Guzzardo told WDSU-TV, a station in New Orleans. “They don’t really want to play defense as much as we love to play defense.”
Iowa proved Guzzardo wrong in definitive fashion Friday in its 95-43 win in the first round of the national tournament.
Southeastern Louisiana shot 25 percent and 18 percent from 3-point range. The second half was especially dreadful for the visiting Lions, who had 11 points on 3-for-32 shooting.
Guzzardo said Iowa had a “great game plan” Friday.
Iowa’s zone defense was particularly troublesome for the Lions.
“We had to punch more gaps and attack more when we go in there with the bigs,” Southeast guard Jen Pierre said. “They are forcing us to shoot the outside shots.”
The Lions were 4-of-22 from 3-point range, which is even lower than their 30 percent season average.
“In our league, if we are making four 3s, it's a good game for us,” Guzzardo said. “We can't make four 3s going against Iowa. We have to be able to shoot the ball consistently from the 3-point line, and that would help open up our inside game a little bit more.”
Guzzardo said she “anticipated” the zone, but did not think it was necessary.
“When you look at a Big Ten team, you think they can guard a little Southland school,” Guzzardo said Friday after the 52-point loss. “I'll be honest with you, you would think they could guard us man-to-man.”
Iowa did guard Southeastern in man-to-man defense early on, though, and had a 28-17 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Star guard Caitlin Clark said the man-on-man defense was doing “OK.”
“But it wasn't working as what we would have liked,” Clark said. “We like to change up our defense quite a bit. It keeps people on their toes.”
The zone also allowed Iowa to “preserve our legs a little bit,” Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder said, ahead of a quick two-day turnaround. Iowa plays again Sunday against 10th-seeded Georgia with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.
‘Why run around and chase screens if you don't have to?“ Bluder said. “When you're going to play again on Sunday, it's kind of nice to be able to sit in a zone and maybe not have to play all those screens.”
As for Guzzardo’s pre-tournament comments, she also talked about making star Clark’s life “miserable.” One of her players said they’re “not scared of anybody.”
“If anything, they should be scared of us,” guard Hailey Giaratano said before shooting 1-for-11 for four points against Iowa.
Meanwhile in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes heard those comments.
“We take a little personal when people say we don't want to play defense because that's not true,” guard Kate Martin said. “We do enjoy playing defense. … We do a lot of good things on defense.”
Friday’s 95-43 win is Exhibit A for Martin’s case.