The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team has defeated the UConn Huskies in their past three meetings.
After the most recent game last Sunday, Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma lamented about the Gamecocks’ physical play, and it prompted a response from head coach Dawn Staley.
“[We have success] we’re called something other than players that are locked in. They play the right way,” said Staley, “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.”
Staley doubled down on her comments on Wednesday, reiterating that her players play the right way and play a physical brand of basketball. And that they shouldn’t be labeled as anything other than great players.
Today, Dawn Staley was asked further about Geno's physicality comments after the @GamecockWBB-UConn game.
For full transparency, here is every question she was asked and all of her answers from today on the topic:@wachfox pic.twitter.com/ohRwnErc3b
— Matt Dowell (@MattDowellTV) February 8, 2023
Auriemma was asked about Staley’s comments after UCONN’s loss to Marquette on Wednesday. The Huskies lost back-to-back games for the first time in 30 years.
“I don’t know whether Dawn was referring to me specifically or whether this has been happening to her team for quite some time now,” Auriemma said. “If people have been paying attention, seriously, I’ve been making that statement for 20-some years, since Diana (Taurasi) was playing for us.”
Geno Auriemma Vs. Dawn Staley
Auriemma and Staley are the two most prominent coaches in women’s college basketball. The UConn head coach has won 11 national titles with the Huskies, the last one in 2016. Staley has won two national titles, both coming after Auriemma won his last.
There are a few things at play here.
First, these are very two competitive individuals that don’t take losses well. Much of the commentary is coaches looking to gain an edge or plant a seed for the next time the teams matchup.
Second, the Gamecocks are a predominantly Black team. Saying the Gamecocks play physical and labeling what they do as “not basketball” has undertones rooted in racial stereotypes.
Third, the reality is things are shifting. UConn is still the standard bearer but they are not the overwhelming, unbeatable juggernaut they once were.
The Huskies’ two best players, Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd, have been injured and robbed them of crucial on court reps. That more than anything is likely what’s frustrating Auriemma.
Staley has a right to be mad and defend her players if she feels they’re being attacked. The Gamecocks are defending champions and should be seen as such.
Auriemma also has a right to advocate for his players if he believes they’ve been wronged.
For decades UConn has dominated women’s college hoops, now it looks like things are in motion for South Carolina to build a dynasty.
“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.”
What Staley has built at South Carolina is incredible. They are pushing UConn and other programs to follow suit or get left behind.