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Dawn Staley on SEC tournament loss: ‘We fell short of our goal’

(Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Dawn Staley reflects on South Carolina’s stunning loss to Kentucky in Sunday’s SEC tournament championship game during the latest episode of NETLIFE.

The Wildcats, seeded seventh in the tournament, overcame a 15-point deficit to upset the Gamecocks in the final seconds. Dre’Una Edwards hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left in the fourth quarter to lift Kentucky to a 64-62 win and the program’s first SEC tournament title in 40 years.

“The outcome was not what we anticipated,” Staley says on the podcast this week. “We fell short of our goal.”

Staley, whose team has been ranked No. 1 in the country all season long, recognized the fourth quarter as a problem area during the tournament. The day before the Gamecocks allowed Kentucky to claw back into the final, they let Ole Miss outscore them 21-8 in the fourth quarter of the semifinal while holding on to win, 61-51.

“Anything can happen in March,” Staley says. “We ran into a super-hot Kentucky women’s basketball team that just hung in there with us, and then they stole the game and championship in the end.”

Putting the game in perspective, Staley showered praise on Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy’s accomplishment. She said she texted Elzy after the game Sunday to congratulate her and tell her, “If it wasn’t me, I am glad it was you.”

The matchup marked the second time two Black head coaches faced each other in the SEC tournament championship game, following last year’s final between Staley’s South Carolina and Joni Taylor’s Georgia.

Despite the upset to Kentucky, Staley expects South Carolina to hold onto the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament after losing just one game during the regular season.

“From a South Carolina women’s basketball perspective, we gotta get back on the horse and we gotta ride it because there is a lot of basketball left to be played,” she says. “Our message is we just have to be more disciplined. This loss is a lesson that we hope propelled us to hoisting the national championship trophy.”

For Staley’s full comments ahead of Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament, listen to NETLIFE.