Dawn Staley pushes back against narrative South Carolina is too physical after Iowa loss: 'We're not thugs'

Dawn Staley wanted to set the record straight after South Carolina's loss to Iowa. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley wants her players to be physical on the basketball court, but believes criticism of the team's style has gone too far. Following South Carolina's 77-73 loss to Iowa in the Final Four on Friday, Staley addressed some comments about her team she believed crossed the line.

Staley took issue with some of the terms people used to describe the way South Carolina played. Prior to Friday's game, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said she was told rebounding against South Carolina was similar to "going to a bar fight," according to Greenville News.

Staley pushed back on that comparison, implying it went too far.

"We're not bar fighters. We're not thugs. We're not monkeys. We're not street fighters," Staley said. "I do think that that's sometimes brought into the game, and it hurts."

It's not the first time Staley has defended her team's play. In February, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma called out South Carolina for being too physical with UConn star Lou Lopez-Senechal. Auriemma said South Carolina's play style was "not basketball anymore."

Staley defended her team then, saying, "They play the right way." She echoed those comments after the loss to Iowa on Friday, saying her team "exemplifies how you need to approach basketball on the court and off the court."

Given all that, it should come as no surprise Staley intends to continue playing the same way next season.

"You may not like how we play the game, you may not like it, that's the way we play. That's the way I coach. I'm not changing. We found success in it, and maybe some days like today, we end up on the losing side of the stick. But guess what? We live to see another day. We live to see the comeback next year and try to do this again because I'm not changing."

Staley is underselling it when she says her team has "found success" with that style of play. South Carolina was a perfect 36-0 entering Friday's contest. The team had not lost a game since March 2022, when it fell to Kentucky in the SEC championship.