Dawn Staley’s actions months prior to South Carolina vs LSU brawl

LSU and South Carolina players clashed on the court in the SEC Tournament final with Dawn Staley offering an apology to the basketball community after the game.

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley apologized to the basketball community after a brawl in the closing stages of their SEC Tournament final win over LSU.

Based on her public comments last fall sternly asking her own players to tone down their attitudes during games, the 53-year-old’s remarks seem genuine.

Dawn Staley apologized after tempers flared in South Carolina vs LSU

On Sunday, members of South Carolina and LSU clashed on the court after an intentional foul from Flau’jae Johnson. Johnson was shoved to the ground by Gamecocks center Kamilla Cardoso, who was ejected for fighting and will now miss their first game of the NCAA Tournament.

Every member of both benches was also ejected for coming onto the court, apart from Te-Hina Paopao, meaning both teams were extremely short-handed over the final 2:08 of the contest. South Carolina was able to close out a 79-72 win to maintain its perfect season.

But Staley was quick to focus on the chaos that ensued and was undoubtedly the major talking point from the game. “I just want to apologize to the basketball community,” Staley told ESPN.

Kamilla Cardoso (right) will miss the first game of the NCAA Tournament after being ejected for fighting

Kamilla Cardoso (right) will miss the first game of the NCAA Tournament after being ejected for fighting.

“When you’re playing in championship games like this, in our league, things get heated. No bad intentions. [Everyone’s] emotions just got so far ahead of them that sometimes these things happen, so I want to apologize for us playing a part in that because that’s not who we are. That’s not what we’re about.

“But I’m happy for the players who were able to finish the game. … We’re going to talk about it [in the locker room]. We always talk about it. Never leave the bench, never get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. It’s hard when you’re playing. I’ve played this game a long time, and I can’t tell you I was a saint at all times. Your emotions get the best of you.”

Staley’s comments long before the SEC Tournament final show that there is no doubt her apology was genuine. She has already called out her players this season for their behavior, publicly telling them back in December they need to show more respect on the court.

Gamecocks players engaged in trash-talking during both games in wins over North Carolina and Duke, including several physical scuffles with North Carolina. Their bench was also warned by referees.

“Just being able to handle the moment in the way that we need to handle the moment [is important],” Staley told reporters at the time. “None of the extra stuff that went on. That’s just not characteristic of our team. So we addressed it; we’ll move on.”

The coach added: “We’ll respect the game and how to play it. Hopefully that’s just a lesson learned. … I’m good without all the kisses and all of that crap. That’s not a part of who we are.”

She shared similar sentiment over a need for her players to hold up the highest possible standards on the court. They fell short of those standards against LSU, but will nonetheless progress to the NCAA Tournament with their perfect season intact with a 32-0 record on the season.

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