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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

This time UConn's opponent dealing with distractions heading into key game

It's not unusual for an off the court story to have a life of its own when UConn heads into a highly anticipated game. However, usually it is something Geno Auriemma has said or done that creates all the buzz.

Heading into tonight's UConn/South Carolina game, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley is the one thrust into the spotlight after Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said in an interview with KTGR Radio in Columbia, Missouri that Staley promoted an atmosphere that he termed as unhealthy in a heated game between Missouri and South Carolina which featured two ejections, more than a few elbows thrown and a hard-earned South Carolina victory over one of the teams to beat the defending national champions this season.

I arrived in South Carolina early enough that I could make it to the media availability with Staley as well as All-American A'ja Wilson in addition to sophomore guard Tyasha Harris. After that concluded, South Carolina AD Ray Tanner stepped to the podium and offer an impassioned defense of Staley.

"I am extremely proud of what Coach Staley has meant to this program and she has meant just as much off the floor as well as her young women who play, their impact in this community and her foundation,' Tanner said. "To know Dawn Staley and to have a comment that many of you read about, it is extremely confusing.

"She is responsible for this program and I would say that she gets an A-plus in the way she runs this program and what she has done here so when it came out in a negative light, it was very disappointing."

Tanner responded to a question about the resolution he would like to see in this matter.

"We all have opinions. The thing with me is that Coach Staley is comfortable with where it goes and she is comfortable with where we end up with the next few hours, the next couple of days and that is the most important thing for me. I do believe a retraction is necessary from Jim Sterk's comments."

Before Tanner met with the media, Staley gave the following statement, "the accusations are serious and false and they will be handled in a manner reflective of those facts and that is all I am going to say about it."

She actually had a little more to say about it. She was asked about being able to juggle the aftermath of the Missouri mess with the upcoming game against UConn. I typically only record the answers and press pause when questions are being asked in a press conference since I don't need to transcribe the questions. I wish I had played record in this situation to see if the question was as poorly worded and frankly as silly as I remember it being as it was being asked. Basically it was something along the lines of whether it is hard to focus on a game against UConn, the 11-time national champions and unanimous No. 1 team in both national polls because of the uproar from Sterk's comments. It made me think back to the 30 for 30 on the 1983 North Carolina State men's basketball team's improbable run to the national title when one of their players recalled his incredulous response when he was asked if his team was overconfident going into an upcoming matchup with the legendary Ralph Sampson and his Virginia squad. There certainly are issues for Staley to be dealing with right now but having her team ready and focused to play the Huskies is not one of them.

"I am a master at it," Staley said of her multitasking ability. "Any time you have to deal with distractions, you deal with them and prioritize. The priority right now is UConn and that has been my focus. Did I lose a little sleep last night? Yes, obviously but there is another game to be played and I am responsible for 12 individuals who want to beat UConn so I have to get my mind right to help them get ready to try to win this game."

When I was over at Colonial Life Arena, I was told that the only tickets remaining are student tickets so it is certainly looking like a packed house will be waiting for the Huskies. The apparel shop across the street from the arena has a sign outside promoting the t-shirts they will be distributing as part of the "White Out." Something tells me that a few more eyes than normal will be on the fans in this game from security personnel.

Speaking of the fans, Staley didn't hold back in expressing her appreciation for them.

"They are loyal, they are passionate, they understand basketball, they understand how to act in the stands and if I could uproot them and put them in every basketball arena, every coach that represents that particular fan base would be tremendously proud of what they bring to the table," Staley said. "I stand by our fans, I stand by what they represent, I stand by how they cheer, I stand by every single thing they bring to the building because it is appropriate and it is well within the game rules."

1 Comments:

Blogger SCOTT DAVIDSON LAW said...

Hmmm,now if that were a men's game a total riot could have ensued,I am sure that won't happen tonight and coach Staley best make sure of it!

4:00 PM 

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