As Iowa star Caitlin Clark hit a shot heard around the world on Tuesday night, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley lamented the refereeing that got her there.

“Heckava shot but give the game ball to the ref for the shooting foul call,” Staley wrote on social media.

While some thought she was referring to the idea that Clark didn’t get the ball off in time, it was a questionable 3-point shooting foul that allowed Molly Davis to sink two free throws and give Iowa a 73-71 lead.

Michigan State’s DeeDee Hagemann was able to tie the game at 73, but those two points inevitably made a difference in the outcome.

Davis, for her part, joked about missing one of the free throws on purpose.

“I missed the first [free throw] on purpose so Caitlin could hit the game-winner,” she said.

Dawn Staley has a simple message for those that don’t think anyone watches women’s sports: they’re wrong.

Staley’s shirt, which read “Everyone Watches Women’s Sports,” caught the attention of social media on Saturday. Postgame, she was asked about the shirt, which she says was sent to her. But the message is simple.

“A lot of times people think that people aren’t watching,” she said, before noting that those people are wrong. “Women’s basketball and women’s sports are at an all-time high. And it’s in high demand.

“Let people know, because there are a lot of people out there that don’t think we’ve got the numbers behind our sports, when it comes to women.”

Last year’s NCAA Final Four and national championship set viewership records, with 9.9 million people tuning in to watch LSU and Iowa play. Elsewhere, the WNBA and NWSL have seen record viewership in the last year as well.

The NWSL recently signed a new media rights deal, meanwhile, both women’s college basketball and the WNBA are set to negotiate new television contracts in the coming years. The NCAA is currently exploring options for the women’s college basketball tournament – which is traditionally packaged with other NCAA sports minus the men’s tournament, and is widely considered undervalued as is.

Top-ranked South Carolina was up by three points against No. 11 Utah with just under five minutes left in the game. Te-Hina Paopao dribbled up the court to the elbow and released a jump shot. 

Her shot dropped into the hoop. Three minutes later, Paopao had the ball in the key again. She dribbled closer and closer to the basket and was approaching traffic. She lifted her arms to shoot as she ran, and her shot fell into the hoop again as her arm hung in the air. 

Paopao’s last-minute points kept her team afloat in a difficult matchup. The game remained close until the final buzzer, but Dawn Staley’s squad secured the victory against Utah, 78-69, to remain undefeated this season. 

The Gamecocks faced their toughest challenge of the year against Alissa Pili and the Utes. Pili dropped 21 points in the first half, and she only played 13 of the 20 minutes after getting into foul trouble. 

Kamilla Cardoso got into foul trouble herself after being called for three charges on Jenna Johnson, who put on a foul-drawing clinic against the defensive powerhouse. 

When Pili returned to the court in the second half, she did so in her usual form. Pili rained buckets on South Carolina, finishing the game with 37 points, a career-high. No other Utes came close to her offensive contributions, and the only other Utah player to reach double-digits was Dasia Young with 10 points. 

The Gamecocks spread the love on the scoreboard with four players in double-digits and 26 bench points. 

South Carolina was plagued by turnovers in its closest game of the season. Utah forced 23 turnovers and collected 11 points in transition, but they weren’t enough for the Utes to earn their first win against a first-ranked squad.

South Carolina dominated Morgan State on Wednesday night, but did so with a different starting lineup than previous games.

Both Kamilla Cardoso and Raven Johnson started from the bench in favor of Sakima Walker (in place of Cardoso) and freshman guard Tessa Johnson (in place of Raven Johnson).

Following the game, head coach Dawn Staley gave insight into the decision, noting that both had broken a team rule.

“They broke a team rule. They took it on the chin, we kept it moving, we’re good,” she said. “Nothing long-lasting.”

Ultimately, Staley said she “liked” putting out a different starting lineup, as it allowed for some different looks. Tessa Johnson finished with 16 points, while both Johnson and Cardoso finished in double-digits off the bench.

“I think we gained some valuable minutes, valuable instances for, like a Tessa,” Staley said. “Tessa is right there. She just needs more opportunities to play, and it gave her an opportunity to play. [Te-Hina Paopao] playing the point just solely, I thought she did a great job running the team, keeping it simple. And they were able to just bank some threes and open the floor up for us.”

No. 1 South Carolina eked out a 65-58 win over No. 24 North Carolina on Thursday, but freshman phenom MiLaysia Fulwiley played just three minutes.

It was an uncharacteristic game from Fulwiley, who had been playing significant minutes and hadn’t scored less than 10 points in her first five games. She entered Thursday’s contest as the Gamecocks’ second-leading scorer but rode the bench after the first quarter.

South Carolina trailed 19-10 after the first quarter. For head coach Dawn Staley, the decision to bench Fulwiley came because she wanted to go with the hotter defensive player.

“From a defensive standpoint, she lost her man a few times and gave up a couple of 3s,” Staley said.

Fulwiley entered the night averaging 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 23.5 minutes per game. She also has been sound defensively, with 10 steals and 7 blocks on the year.

But there’s still room for improvement, Staley said. And while the game showcased an area in which Fulwiley can improve, Staley also was looking out for her player.

“I know that’s probably one of the things she has to improve on, but it was such a nip-and-tuck game that I don’t want her to lose confidence,” Staley said. “She’ll know exactly why she didn’t get extended minutes. I’ve always told our players if you play well, you get extended minutes. If you don’t, they have to go to someone else. It could be you at times, it could not be you at times.”

After all, though South Carolina is ranked No. 1 in the country, the Gamecocks are still a young team and there will be growing pains. But they did rally in the second half to take the lead and the win from UNC. Their next game comes on the road at 1 p.m. ET Sunday against Duke.

“We just have such a young team that they got to know, and hopefully she doesn’t feel good about not playing as much as she probably wanted to,” Staley said. “Hopefully we can get her in at Duke and hopefully play some extended minutes, but she’s got to be ready to rock and roll.”

No. 1 South Carolina only allowed 19 points in its rout of Mississippi Valley State on Friday, setting a program record for the fewest points allowed in a game. 

The Devils actually opened the game with a lead. They sank the first basket, and then the Gamecocks came to life. They went on to win, 101-19 — an 82-point margin. 

Seven South Carolina players registered double-digit numbers on the scoresheet, including Kamilla Cardoso, who put up a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Cardoso has four double-doubles in the Gamecocks’ five games. MiLaysia Fulwiley led her squad in the score column with 17 points. 

Cardoso’s stifling defense no doubt played a part in South Carolina’s victory. The six-foot-seven senior batted down five blocks, a third of her team’s total. The Gamecocks forced 19 turnovers and collected 20 points off the takeaways.

Te-Hina PaoPao returned to South Carolina’s lineup against Mississippi Valley and she contributed significantly to her team’s success. She is one of the seven players that reached double-digit scoring numbers with 10 points on the night and she grabbed 8 rebounds. 

“It makes a big difference to have someone like Pao who’s always cool, calm and collected,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said to Greenville News. “You have to guard her, and she doesn’t take bad shots. It was great to have her back on the floor.”

Sh’Diamond McKnight led the Devils in scoring with eight points. Her squad shot just 12% from the field and they scored just seven points in the second half.

There isn’t much that would take Dawn Staley away from South Carolina – including the NBA.

Speaking with Vanity Fair earlier this month, she revealed that she opted not to pursue the Washington Wizards’ coaching vacancy shortly after being approached by Portland – despite the team reaching out. To Staley, it’s important that the team not treat the hire “like a publicity stunt.”

“I didn’t because nowadays there are people out there that are trying to strengthen their candidate pool and, you know, they gotta diversify the people that they’re speaking to,” Staley told Vanity Fair. “I don’t want to be a number. I don’t want to be a statistic. I don’t want to be a ‘check the box.’ Portland was pretty serious about it, and then everybody else—I don’t think it was that serious.”

Instead, Staley opted to agree to a seven-year contract extension with the Gamecocks in 2021. The contract pays her around $3 million annually, and she says now that it would take a special offer to be lured away from the team.

“If you’re gonna come for me, you gotta come correct,” she said. “My passion is here. Would I consider it? I don’t know. It would have to be the right situation.”

To her, the South Carolina job – in which she is in her 16th season – is something special. She’s grown the program into a powerhouse, and she knows it.

“I built this program in South Carolina, and I don’t want to just hand it off to someone who wouldn’t white-glove it,” Staley said. “You gotta white-glove this program.”

Dawn Staley has been excited to see early-season upsets in women’s college basketball.

While her Gamecocks are a perfect 4-0, several of their top competitors already have been toppled. Preseason No. 1 LSU lost to Colorado to start the season, and preseason No. 2 UConn lost to NC State. And then-No. 2 Iowa was upset by Kansas State, almost one year after the Wildcats upset a top-5 Iowa team.

Meanwhile, Princeton nearly upset No. 3 UCLA, and Duke pushed then-No. 6 Stanford to overtime.

All of these are signs of growing parity in the women’s game, which Staley called “good for the sport.”

“I think women’s basketball is good,” she said after South Carolina’s 78-38 win over South Dakota State on Monday. “We could talk about parity, but we’re good. Our sport is at a really good place where anybody feels like they could beat anybody. It’s come to pass and I think that helps everybody else when you see it.”

While the Gamecocks have not yet been a victim, the upsets give them reason for better preparation, Staley said. After all, a team never knows if they could be next.

“When you see it, you prepare a little bit better,” she said. “You’ve got examples of what it could look like for you if you lose a basketball game. More so than just coaching your team up, they see it, they feel it. It is a real thing out there when you see teams get upset.”

And the upsets have come as the sport has reached new heights of popularity. With more eyes on the game than ever before, sometimes those upsets can feel monumental. But if you ask Staley, she’s seen this changing of the tides coming.

Earlier this month, Staley discussed the the rise in the sport’s popularity with Vanity Fair.

“Women’s basketball is bursting at the seams,” Staley said. “It is a long time coming.”

And that could mean a greater financial return, too. Broadcast rights for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament are set to be negotiated soon, and the deal could be worth more than $100 million.

“We need somebody to bet on us,” Staley said, “and I know that they’ll get a return on their investment.”

No. 1 South Carolina basketball is off to a historic start. The Gamecocks are averaging 107.0 points per game through their first two games of the season, shooting them up the AP Top 25 from No. 6 to No. 1. 

Such high-quality play is not uncommon under head coach Dawn Staley. And it shows in the program’s WNBA legacy. 

Staley has coached the Gamecocks since 2008, and since then, she’s helped produce multiple WNBA stars. Reigning WNBA Finals MVP A’ja Wilson, 2023 Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston, Tiffany Mitchell, Allisha Gray, Laeticia Amihere and more professional players came from Staley’s program.

“We produce pros,” Staley said. “The very best in the league. And if that’s not proof in the pudding, then this isn’t the place for you.”

South Carolina women’s basketball didn’t have this winning reputation when Staley took the helm in 2008, though. 

In 2008 and 2009, Staley and the Gamecocks had losing seasons. But every season thereafter, their record improved. South Carolina secured its first No. 1 ranking and its first Final Four appearance during the 2014-15 season. By 2022, the Gamecocks have appeared in four Final Fours and they’ve collected seven SEC tournament victories and two NCAA championships, among other accolades. 

Staley referred to her players as “the storytellers of the program.” While that may be true, South Carolina basketball likely would not have the WNBA pedigree that it has today without Staley’s coaching and guidance. 

After going shot-for-shot with No. 6 South Carolina for much of the first two quarters, No. 14 Maryland fell apart before halftime at Colonial Life Arena.

The Gamecocks went on a nine-point run in the final minute of the first half on their home court to secure a firm lead after 20 minutes of play. And their high rate of scoring continued for the rest of the game, adding to their historic start to the season.

South Carolina went on to beat Maryland by a score of 114-76 — the most points in a single game for the Gamecocks since 2020 and the most points against a ranked opponent in program history. Following on a 100-71 season-opening win against Notre Dame, South Carolina has scored at least 100 points in the first two games for the first time in program history.

“I actually think they’re better than last year,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said after the game.

The Gamecocks exploited the Terps’ zone defense and pulled them out of the paint. South Carolina pulled down a staggering 53 rebounds to Maryland’s 33, which allowed the Gamecocks to drop 28 second-chance points.

The Terps also struggled to maintain possession of the basketball — South Carolina forced 15 turnovers and was able to convert them to 23 points. 

The game ended with seven Gamecocks scoring in double figures. And if the loss wasn’t enough for Maryland, its highest scorer, Shyanne Sellers, exited the game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent injury to her foot. 

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley’s squad was said to be “renovating” its lineup this year after losing 2023 WNBA rookie of the year Aliyah Boston and other starters. Yet the Gamecocks are averaging 107 points per game.