Kim Mulkey won’t label LSU-South Carolina as fight: ‘I didn’t see any fists thrown’

Two days after South Carolina women’s basketball beat LSU in the SEC Tournament championship game, Tigers coach Kim Mulkey said she believes what took place between players wasn’t a fight.

Mulkey was asked Tuesday on “Off the Bench,” a radio show on 104.5, ESPN’s Baton Rouge station, if she stood by her comment that South Carolina senior center Kamilla Cardoso should have pushed LSU forward Angel Reese instead of Flau’jae Johnson.

“You guys want me to keep commenting on that little − I don’t even know what you call it,” Mulkey said. “I don’t call it a fight. I didn’t see any fists thrown or anything like that.”

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Mulkey said she feels similar to South Carolina coach Dawn Staley in that incidents like this happen during competitive games.

“She wasn’t going to get on her players, so I certainly wasn’t going to get on my players for anything,” Mulkey said. “It just happened. You keep playing and you move on.”

Mulkey added these types of incidents are things that happen in sports and believes the extended conversations about it might be because it’s a women’s sport, so it’s “not supposed to happen.”

In the immediate aftermath of the game, Staley made an effort to apologize to fans for South Carolina’s role in the fight. She used the first question in her postgame interview on ESPN to address it.

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“I just want to apologize to the basketball community,” Staley told ESPN after the game. “When you’re playing in championship games like this in our league, things get heated. No bad intentions. Their emotions got so far ahead of them that sometimes these things happen.

“I just want to apologize for us being a part in that. Because that’s not who we are and that’s not what we’re about. But I’m happy for the players that were able to finish the game and get us another championship.”

Staley added on in her postgame press conference, taking personality responsibility for the escalation and saying South Carolina talks about situations like this as a team. While they tell players how not to react, she said avoiding altercations in real time is harder.

Former South Carolina star Aaliyah Boston told Yahoo Sports the referees should have been controlled the game better because it was competitive.

“If there’s going to be smack talk, that’s totally cool because we’re competitors,” Boston said. “If we’re going to do that, we also have to make sure that we control it. The controlling part definitely comes from the refs. … Nobody is going to want to back down, but you can’t let stuff go on.”

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