The South Carolina women’s basketball team had a landmark season, going undefeated until a loss to Iowa in the Final Four.
Dawn Staley, South Carolina’s longtime head coach, expressed her frustration at the way her team’s style of play was characterized leading up to the semifinal game.
Staley took particular 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 big upset Friday by defeating the top-seeded Gamecocks 77-73. Iowa star player Caitlin Clark led the way for the Hawkeyes with 41 points.
On Saturday, Bluder claimed he was unaware of Staley’s postgame comments. He shrugged off the South Carolina coach’s problem with describing the Gamecocks’ physical style of play.
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«If you know me, I joke a lot, and I was making an analogy of you have to bounce back like you’re in a bar fight,» Bluder said. «That’s it. It doesn’t say who’s fighting, does it? But that’s okay. I’ve never been in a bar fight by the way.»
Bluder’s response missed the main point of Staley’s complaints, suggesting that a narrative has been created about South Carolina’s style of play.
After losing to the Hawkeyes, Staley said he believed the public perception of his team impacted the way the officials call their games.
«We’re not bar brawlers. We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street brawlers,» Staley said. «This team exemplifies how you need to approach basketball on and off the court. And I think that sometimes comes into the game and it hurts.»
In February, Staley made similar comments after a game against the UConn Huskies. After South Carolina’s 81–77 win on February 5, veteran UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said that Lou Lopez Senechal’s defense was «not basketball.»
Auriemma added that Senechal had «bruises all over his body,» suggesting that the South Carolina players’ physical style of defense caused the injuries.
Staley pushed back on Auriemma’s comments during her radio show.
«Any time we’re successful, we get called out for something more than players who are locked up,» Staley said. «They play the right way and approach it the right way, whether they win or lose. We don’t denounce anybody’s game. They’re always elevating the game of women’s basketball, and when UConn hit us over the head for all those years, we didn’t I said nothing».
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During 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.