Geno Auriemma: S.C.-Mizzou conflict put Dawn Staley in 'daunting' situation

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said the controversy between South Carolina and Missouri has put Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley in a difficult position that coaches don't often face.

After his Huskies beat South Carolina 83-58 on Thursday, a reporter asked Auriemma his opinion on what has transpired between the two SEC programs. South Carolina and Missouri had an on-court altercation last Sunday during their game here at Colonial Life Arena.

Tuesday, Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk, in remarks to a local radio station in Columbia, Missouri, alleged that Gamecock fans had spit at Missouri players and directed racial slurs at them following the Tigers' 64-54 loss. He also said that Staley had fostered the hostile environment. Both Staley and South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner contested the allegations, and called for an apology from Sterk.

"I don't want to single out Dawn; I think any coach, when someone publicly does that, it's kind of daunting," Auriemma said. "It's not something you deal with every day.

"My experience is you go into an arena, especially for a conference game, it's going to be somewhat hostile. It's going to be loud and aggressive. It's going to be all those things. Especially when you are playing the defending national champions, and you just beat them. They're not going to throw down roses to welcome you."

Missouri won the teams' first meeting this season 83-74 on Jan. 7. Staley was ejected in that game and was upset afterward about the officiating. It set up a heated rematch Sunday.

"I thought it was a great atmosphere to watch a game," Auriemma said of Sunday's South Carolina-Missouri game. "I watched it on TV. What happened before, after, during ... I don't know. But it's unusual for the exchange of words back and forth. You usually don't see that. I was very surprised at that."