The South Carolina Gamecocks entered Friday night’s women’s NCAA Final Four game against Iowa riding a 42-game winning streak and looking to return to the national championship for the second year in a row.
The top team in women’s college basketball was stopped by Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes, who advanced to Sunday’s national championship game at Iowa with a 77-73 loss.
Caitlin Clark, #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes, against Raven Johnson, #25 of the South Carolina Gamecocks, in the third quarter during the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game at American Airlines Center on March 31, 2023 in Dallas. , Texas. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
South Carolina was the more physical team all night, dominating the glass outscoring Iowa 49-25, grabbing 26 offensive rebounds against a smaller Iowa team.
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After the loss, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was asked about other coaches calling her team “bullies,” and Staley fiercely defended her players.
“We’re not bar fighters. We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street fighters,” Staley said. “This team shows how you have to approach basketball, on the court and off the court. I think sometimes that comes into play. And it hurts.”
On Thursday, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder called South Carolina “an amazing rebounding offensive team.”
“Somebody kind of described to me like you’re going to a bar fight when you try to bounce back against them, they’re really good,” Bluder said, according to ESPN.
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South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley is seen during the first quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game at American Airlines Center on March 31, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Staley called members of the national media. “Some people in the media, when you get together in public, you’re saying things about our team, and they listen to you,” Staley said. “And they’re getting back to me. And these are the people who write for our sports nationally. So you can’t like our team, and I can’t like you. But when you say things that you should probably say in your own way, on the phone or texting home, in public — and you’re listening – and you’re our national sportswriter, confirms what we already know.
“So don’t judge us by the color of our skin,” Staley continued. “Judge us on how we approach the game. And you might not like how we play. You might not like it. That’s the way we play. That’s the way I coach. I’m not changing.”
South Carolina’s torrid season was almost single-handedly halted by Clark, who scored Iowa’s final 13 points, finishing with 41 points on the night.
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Iowa’s Kate Martin tries to shoot past South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston during the first half of an NCAA Women’s Final Four basketball game Friday, March 31, 2023, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
“We had nothing to lose. I have all the confidence in the world in this team, and they believe in me right away, and that’s all you need,” Clark said. “Everything we do is believe in each other, and we love each other to death, and that’s what a real team is. If you want an example of a team, this is it.”
The Hawkeyes will face Kim Mulkey and the LSU Tigers on Sunday for the national championship.
Joe Morgan is a sports reporter for Fox News.