South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley fought for her team in the face of criticism from UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
Staley’s No. 1 Gamecocks eked out an 81-77 win Sunday against the then-No. 5 Huskies. After the game, Auriemma called out the officiating as well as the Gamecocks’ physical play against UConn guard Lou Lopez Sénéchal.
“If you want to, bring Lou (Lopez Sénéchal in and you can see the bruises on her body,” Auriemma said. “It’s just appalling what teams do to her now. It’s not basketball anymore. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not basketball.”
Both Lopez Sénéchal and Nika Muhl fouled out for UConn during the game, while Kamilla Cardoso fouled out for South Carolina. While 23 fouls were called on South Carolina compared to 21 for UConn, several close calls in the final minutes went against the Huskies.
Staley took issue with Auriemma’s characterization of her team’s defense.
“They play the right way,” Staley said of her players, “and approach it the right way whether they win or lose. We don’t denounce anybody’s play. They are always uplifting the game of women’s basketball, and when we were getting our heads beat in by UConn for all those years, I said nothing.”
The undefeated Gamecocks (23-0) have the upper hand this season, as they beat the Huskies in the 2022 championship game. Sunday’s rematch drew 1.087 million viewers on Fox, making it the most-viewed women’s basketball game ever on that network.
“We’ve been called so many things and I’m sick of it,” Staley said. “I’m sick of it because I coach some of the best human beings the game has ever had.”