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Dawn Staley defends South Carolina after Final Four loss: ‘We’re not thugs’

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley once again had to defend her squad following their 77-73 loss to Iowa in the Final Four, which ended their undefeated season and their national championship defense.

Throughout the season, the Gamecocks have fought negative perceptions of their physicality on the court. Staley has been pushing back against that narrative all year, and she did so again Friday. 

We’re not bar fighters. We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street fighters,” she said when asked about her team. “This team exemplifies how you need to approach basketball on the court and off the court. And I do think that that’s sometimes brought into the game, and it hurts.”

According to Staley, a number of media members were at an event near the arena Thursday and were “overheard talking about our team.”

“Some of the people in the media, when you’re gathering in public, you’re saying things about our team, and you’re being heard, and it’s being brought back to me,” she said. “And these are the people that write nationally for our sport.

“So you can not like our team and you can not like me. But when you say things that you probably should be saying in your home on the phone or texting out in public and you’re being heard, and you are a national writer for our sport, it just confirms what we already know. So watch what you say when you’re in public and you’re talking about my team in particular.

“Just watch what you say about our team because it’s wrong. You’ve got young lives who are really — if you really knew them, if you really knew them, like you really want to know other players that represent this game, you would think differently. So don’t judge us by the color of our skin. Judge us by how we approach the game.”

While some critics may not like the way South Carolina plays, Staley is “not changing” it, she said after the loss to Iowa.

“We found success in it, and maybe some days like today, we end up on the losing side of the stick. But guess what? We live to see another day,” she said. “We live to see the comeback next year and try to do this again because I’m not changing.”