Auriemma says he was criticizing officials, not Gamecocks

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Marquette Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
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MILWAUKEE (AP) — UConn coach Geno Auriemma says his postgame comments regarding physical play in the Huskies’ loss to top-ranked South Carolina were directed at the officiating and resembled remarks he’s made throughout his career.

Auriemma said after the top-ranked Gamecocks’ 81-77 victory on Sunday that Huskies guard/forward Lou Lopez Senechal had bruises on her body from the game. South Carolina coach Dawn Staley responded on her radio show Tuesday by saying when her team has success, “we’re called something other than players that are locked in.”

“I don’t know whether Dawn was referring to me specifically or whether this has been happening to her team for quite some time now,” Auriemma said Wednesday after the fourth-ranked Huskies’ 59-52 loss at Marquette. “If people have been paying attention, seriously, I’ve been making that statement for 20-some years, since Diana (Taurasi) was playing for us.”

Auriemma noted he made similar comments after UConn’s wins over Villanova and Providence as well as during his courtside interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe at halftime of the Huskies’ victory at Tennessee.

“In each one of those instances, everything I said was directed squarely at the officials,” Auriemma said. “And not one other coach said a word. You have a right to coach your team any way you want. I have enough trouble coaching my own team. But I can have a say in how officials call the game. And if rules are supposed to be the rules as they’re interpreted to me, then they’ve got to be called according to the rules.

“If I’m never allowed to question an official about their calls and criticize them for the way they officiate a game, without someone thinking I’m casting (aspersions) toward their team, that’s just asinine. If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve been saying it for 20 years.”

After the South Carolina game, Auriemma had referred to Senechal’s bruises and said that “it’s just appalling what teams do to her now.” Auriemma added that, “it’s not basketball anymore. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not basketball.”

Staley responded Tuesday by saying that the Gamecocks “play the right way and approach it the right way whether they win or lose.”

“We’ve been called so many things and I’m sick of it,” Staley said. “I’m sick of it because I coach some of the best human beings the game has ever had.”

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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25