Iowa coach Lisa Bluder brushes off Dawn Staley's frustration about 'bar fight' comment

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DALLAS — After South Carolina women's basketball suffered its only loss of the season to Iowa in the Final Four on Friday, Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley aired her frustration with the way her team's play style was described leading up to the game.

Staley specifically cited a comment made Tuesday by Iowa coach Lisa Bluder that described rebounding against the Gamecocks as "going to a bar fight." Bluder said Saturday that she had not seen Staley's postgame comments and brushed off the South Carolina coach's offense at the characterization of her team's physicality.

"If you know me, I speak tongue in cheek a lot, and I was saying an analogy of you've got to rebound like you're in a bar fight," Bluder said. "That's all. It doesn't say who's fighting, right? But that's fine. I've never been in a bar fight, by the way."

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Bluder's response did not address the heart of Staley's complaints about the narratives surrounding South Carolina's style of play. Staley said after the Gamecocks' loss that she felt public descriptions of her team as "bar fighters" and "thugs" have an impact on the way officials call fouls against the team.

"We're not bar fighters. We're not thugs. We're not monkeys. We're not street fighters," Staley said. "This team exemplifies how you need to approach basketball on the court and off the court. And I do think that that's sometimes brought into the game, and it hurts."

Staley's comments were similar to the ones she made after South Carolina's 81-77 win at UConn on Feb. 5. After that game, Huskies coach Geno Auriemma described the defense on Lou Lopez Senechal as "not basketball," and said she had "bruises on her body." Staley pushed back against Auriemma, and later said she did so specifically to counteract the implications in case her team faced UConn in the postseason.

The complaint isn't baseless: South Carolina has been called for more than 20 fouls in just three games this season. One came against UConn and another in Friday's Final Four game against Iowa.

"I just don't like narratives that could hurt us in the future, so that's why I addressed it," Staley explained after her response to Auriemma in February. "If it was just a one-off and I thought it was the end of it — but I don't think it's the end of it. If we have to play them again, that's out there and I just want people to know that this is us and this is how we play ... Even if everybody fouled out, I wouldn't change how we play and approach the game."

Gamecocks star Aliyah Boston also heard Bluder's "bar fight" comment and said she felt that the outside perception of South Carolina's play impacted her and her teammates on the court.

"Every time we get ready to play a really, really big game, there's always things in the media. I think this time, it was a bar fight," Boston said. "That's how we were described. That's the type of physicality we're described that we will bring to the table, not the other opponent. I think when you look at it, it's like we're always the aggressor, and I don't feel like that's actually the case."

Bluder did not apologize for the comment but did clarify that she meant it in a positive way.

"There was absolutely no ill intent. I know coaches will take things and spin it to try to motivate their team. I've done that, I'm sure. So be it with that," Bluder said. "I really meant it as a compliment, like you are going to have to fight harder than you've ever fought in your life to get a defensive rebound against this team because they are so good."

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Dawn Staley-Lisa Bluder: Iowa coach responds to 'bar fight' comment