The South Carolina women’s basketball team had a historic season, going undefeated until losing to Iowa in the Final Four.
Dawn Staley, South Carolina’s longtime head coach, expressed frustration with how her team’s style of play was characterized heading into the semifinals.
Staley particularly took issue with a comment Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder made earlier in the week describing the rebound against the Gamecocks as “going to a bar fight.”
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Iowa pulled off a major upset on Friday by beating the top-seeded Gamecocks 77-73. Iowa star Caitlin Clark led the way for the Hawkeyes with 41 points.
On Saturday, Bluder claimed she was unaware of Staley’s postgame remarks. She ignored the South Carolina coach’s problem with the Gamecocks’ description of the physical style of play.
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“If you know me, I talk a lot ironically, and I was saying by analogy that you have to bounce back like you’re in a bar fight,” Bluder said. ” That’s all. It doesn’t say who’s fighting, does it? But it is okay. I’ve never been in a bar fight, by the way.
Bluder’s response glossed over the main point of Staley’s complaints suggesting a narrative has been created about South Carolina’s style of play.
After falling to the Hawkeyes, Staley said she believes the public perception of her team has an impact on how referees call their games.
“We’re not bar fighters. We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street fighters,” Staley said. “This team exemplifies how you have to approach basketball on and off the court. And I think that sometimes gets introduced into the game, and it hurts.”
In February, Staley made similar comments following a game against the UConn Huskies. After South Carolina’s 81-77 win on Feb. 5, longtime UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said Lou Lopez Senechal’s defense was “not basketball.”
Auriemma added that Senechal had “bruises all over his body,” suggesting the South Carolina players’ physical defensive style was to blame for the injuries.
Staley pushed back against Auriemma’s remarks during her radio call-in show.
“Every time we succeed, we’re called something other than locked-in players,” Staley said. “They play the right way and approach it the right way, whether they win or lose. We don’t denounce anyone’s game. They always elevate the game of women’s basketball, and when we were getting beat up over the head by UConn for all those years, I said nothing.”
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In the game against UConn, 21 fouls were called against South Carolina.
Over 20 fouls have been called against the Gamecocks in just three games this season. Friday’s Final Four game against Iowa was one of those games.