After coaching No. 1 South Carolina to a 72-40 win over Norfolk State in the first round of the 2023 NCAA basketball tournament on Friday, Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley visited the losing team’s locker room to provide some encouragement. Staley specifically called out Norfolk State sophomore Kierra “Meme” Wheeler, who recorded 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals in the loss.

Staley also used her post-game press conference to praise Norfolk State, an HBCU that earned its second ever appearance in the NCAA tournament this year.

“I’m going to say it today so we can prep for next year: Norfolk State is not a 16 seed. Just want you to know that. They’re not. Very well-coached. Very disciplined,” Staley said.

Ahead of Friday’s NCAA first round game, Norfolk State graduate student Camille Downs provided some insight on what playing South Carolina, the defending national champion and March Madness favorite, meant.

“Not a lot of teams get the opportunity to play against the No. 1 team in the country. Dawn Staley, too. Getting scouted by her. I’m just thankful to be here,” Downs told reporters.

Next up for No. 1 South Carolina in the 2023 NCAA tournament is a second round game against No. 8 South Florida (Sunday at 1pm ET, ABC).

As for Norfolk State?

“For the program moving forward, we’re nothing but excited for next year,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to take some time to recover from this, but we’re right back at it for preseason, and I’m just looking forward to next year and what we have to bring.”

“Hopefully we get here again, and hopefully we don’t have a 1 and a 6 next to our name,” added Norfolk State head coach Larry Vickers.