With a 35-2 overall record, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team defeated the UCONN Huskies 64-49 in the NCAA Championship. The victory makes Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley the first Black coach, female or male, to win two national basketball championships.
Several public figures have congratulated Staley on her historical achievement, including former president Barack Obama, actress Gabrielle Union, and Hall of Famer Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders.
South Carolina guard Destanni Henderson scored a career-high of 26 points and Wooden Award winner Aliyah Boston made 16 rebounds for the Gamecocks. Boston’s efforts on the boards helped the Gamecocks have twice as many rebounds as the Huskies.
UCONN guard Paige Bueckers led her team with 14 points and six rebounds.
The Gamecocks broke the Huskies 11-0 winning streak in championship games.
Back in 2015, Carolyn Peck, the first black woman to win an NCAA title gave Staley a piece of her championship net. Staley kept the net in her wallet until she won her first championship in 2017. At the beginning of the 2021-2022 season, Staley started sending pieces of her net to every division I Black female head coach. Staley also carried a piece of that net in her pocket during the championship game.
Pieces of the newer net will be sent to Black male coaches and Black journalists.
South Carolina took an early lead and never looked back, holding the Huskies to eight points in the first quarter. The Gamecocks prolonged their possessions with offensive rebounds.
Bueckers found her shot and was able to close the deficit to eight points by half-time. The Gamecocks started the third quarter with a 7-0 run, building a 14-point lead. UCONN also kept sending South Carolina to the free-throw line where they were shooting at 65 percent.
During the championship trophy presentation, Staley noted their “path was ordered to be national champions” this season. She also thanked the Gamecocks players who did not get a lot of playing time for their efforts.
South Carolina has become the eighth women’s basketball program to win more than one championship in NCAA history. The Gamecocks started the season with a 13-game winning streak; During that streak, they defeated UCONN 73-57.
Three Gamecocks scored in the double digits; Boston led the team with 22 points and 15 rebounds during the matchup. After a competitive third quarter consisting of four ties, South Carolina ran away with the game in the final minutes.
South Carolina has been ranked no.1 on the AP Women’s Basketball top 25 for the entire season. They held teams to 50.7 points per game while scoring 70.9. Their opponents shot at 33 percent from the field and 26 percent from deep. Their defensive effort produced 6.5 steals and 7.4 blocks per game.
Since she joined the Gamecocks in 2008, Staley has been building a program based on chemistry and honesty. She is upfront about what she wants out of her players and knows how to make them feel valued. She cultivated the tradition of gameday devotionals that consists of a Bible verse and an inspirational quote. She shares her devotionals with her 131.5 thousand followers on Twitter.
Staley has the capacity to read her team and she connects with her team on an individual basis.
This is another award in a long list of achievements for Staley, who won a national championship as a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Her efforts made her a two-time ACC Player of the Year and a two-time Naismith College Player of the Year.
Staley helped Team USA women’s basketball win three Olympic gold medals, she also competed in the American Basketball League (ABL) and became a two-time ABL All-Star. In 1999, Staley was drafted to the Charlotte Sting and helped them reach the WNBA Finals in 2001.
From 2000-2008, Staley was the head coach of the Temple women’s basketball team, aiding them in winning three Atlantic 10 tournaments. During the 2004-2005 season, Temple had a 28-4 overall record and was undefeated in the Atlantic 10.
During her time with the Gamecocks, Staley led the team to 10 consecutive NCAA tournaments and four trips to the Final Four. Staley has won five SEC Coach of the Year honors. She became the first person to win the Naismith Coach of the Year and Player of the Year.
Staley has also been an assistant coach for Team USA women’s basketball and ascended to the head coach position for the 2020 Olympics.
Along with being an elite coach and player, Staley starred in an episode of hit 1990s sit-com “Martin” alongside WNBA icons Rebecca Lobo and Sheryl Swoopes.