COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley called out UConn coach Geno Auriemma on Tuesday for comments the Huskies coach made about the Gamecocks' play style after their 81-77 win in Connecticut on Sunday.
Auriemma received a technical foul in the rivalry game for throwing a water bottle onto the court as he shouted at officials for a decision he disagreed with in the fourth quarter. After the game, Auriemma repeatedly criticized South Carolina's physical playing style and the lack of calls that the Gamecocks received.
"I just couldn't keep quiet any longer. The technical was stupid, but I didn't say anything for a long, long, long time," Auriemma said. "If you want to bring Lou (Lopez Senechal) in and you can see the bruises on her body. 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."
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During the game, 44 fouls were called: 23 against UConn and 21 against South Carolina. It was the most fouls that had been called against the Gamecocks in any game this season.
Staley was heated in her response on her radio call-in show Tuesday and expressed frustration with her team's accomplishments being invalidated.
"Every time that we're successful, we're called something other than players that are locked in," Staley said. "They play the right way 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 Gamecocks' victory over UConn was the first in program history on the Huskies' home court. South Carolina has now won four of the last five meetings in the series after losing the first eight from 2007-2019. The Gamecocks also beat UConn last season in the 2022 NCAA Championship game.
Staley was also angered by Auriemma's comments because of their connotation toward a majority-Black team led by a Black head coach. She referenced comments made on a UConn fan page on Facebook earlier this season that called the Gamecocks "thugs," as well as a post on Twitter by an LSU fan two weeks ago that compared them to inmates at a men's prison.
"We've been called so many things and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of it because I coach some of the best human beings that the game has ever had," Staley said. "We've been called thugs. We've been called prisoners. We've been called monkeys ... We take this very seriously being the No. 1 team in the country, being a team that young people look at and want to emulate. We set the example of how you do it and do it the right way.
"I am not going to stand down when you're going to denounce how we play, because you're denouncing our national championship. You're denouncing the product that we put up on the floor. You're denouncing families. You're denouncing our achievements, and I'm not going to stand by and allow people just to say that."
The Gamecocks coach addressed the comment that Lopez-Senechal had "bruises," noting that the game was physical on both sides. South Carolina star Aliyah Boston faced double- and triple-teams nearly every time she held the ball in the paint, as did center Kamilla Cardoso.
"When you say it's not basketball, when you say your player has bruises on her body, our entire post players if we unclothed them, you will see the bruises," Staley said. "We play in the SEC, and that's how we play and we're not going to change it."
The No. 1 Gamecocks (23-0, 12-0 SEC) are back in action at Auburn (13-9, 3-7) on Thursday, and the attention will then turn to another highly-anticipated matchup against No. 2 LSU (23-0, 13-0) in front of a sold-out crowd at Colonial Life Arena on Sunday (2 p.m., ESPN).
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Dawn Staley calls out Geno Auriemma's South Carolina-UConn comments