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Bench-Clearing Brawl Can’t Keep South Carolina Women From SEC Title No. 8

No. 1 Gamecocks emerge from Greenville with another conference crown …

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The undefeated, top-seeded, top-ranked University of South Carolina women’s basketball team took home its eighth Southeastern Conference tournament title this weekend (on the heels of its eighth regular season SEC title) – but the latest hardware came with its fair share of fireworks.

A bench-clearing brawl late in the fourth quarter against defending national champion LSU resulted in multiple player ejections – and one detention by law enforcement – at the Bon Secours Wellness arena in Greenville, S.C.

South Carolina’s championship weekend started on Friday with a closer-than-expected win over ninth-seeded Texas A&M. It continued the following day with a nail-biting victory over fifth-seeded Tennessee in the tournament semi-final round. In that matchup, senior center Kamilla Cardoso saved the Gamecocks’ season by making the first three-pointer of her collegiate career – a 23-foot bank shot as time expired after the Volunteers stormed back from 23 points down to take a two-point lead with just 1.1 seconds remaining in the game.

The weekend of hard-fought competition concluded on Sunday, when South Carolina squared off against the No. 8 Bayou Bengals. Both teams played physically, with LSU forward Angel Reese being assed a personal foul on Cardoso during the first quarter.

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With two minutes remaining in the game and South Carolina holding on to a 73-66 lead, mayhem erupted when Gamecock Freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley stole the ball from LSU guard Flau’jae Johnson, resulting in Johnson fouling Fulwiley to prevent an open court lay-up.

South Carolina forward Ashlyn Watkins yelled at Johnson after the play, at which point Johnson shoved her.

Cardoso didn’t take kindly to that, pushing Johnson to the ground. At this point the benches of both teams cleared, prompting game officials and law enforcement personnel to intervene in the hopes of preventing further escalation.

Twitter user @TWDTV1 provided (hilarious) commentary on the situation:

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During the melee, a fan reported to be Johnson’s brother vaulted over the scorer’s table – only to leave the stadium in handcuffs. Johnson’s brother was detained but not charged in connection with his participation in the brawl.

It would take SEC officials more than 20 minutes to review the footage and determine who started fight, who left the bench area and who deserved to be ejected from the game. Ultimately, six players – four Gamecocks and two Tigers – were ejected.

Per NCAA rules, players participating in a fight must be suspended for the team’s next game, meaning Cardoso will be ineligible to play in the first round of the NCAA championship – scheduled for March 22, 2024. The five players ejected for leaving the bench area will not be suspended for the Gamecocks’ first round game.

After the win, the apologies began …

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USC head coach Dawn Staley addressed the incident in an interview with ESPN after the game.

“I just want to apologize to the basketball community,” Staley said. “You know, when you’re playing a championship game like this, in our league things get heated. No bad intentions. Their emotions got so far ahead of them. Sometimes these things happen.”

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“I want to apologize for us playing a part in that.” Staley continued. “That’s not who we are, and that’s not what we’re about. But I’m happy for the players who were able to finish the game and get us another championship.”

In addition to capturing eight tournament championships at the conference level, South Carolina has won a pair of NCAA titles under Staley (in 2017 and 2022). The Gamecocks were the runaway favorites to win the crown in 2020 but Covid-19 canceled postseason play that year. Last season, Staley’s team was undefeated prior to losing to No. 3 Iowa in the Final Four in Dallas, Texas.

After going a middling 67-58 (.536) during her first four years in Columbia, Staley’s teams have gone 367-48 (.884) since – including 161-9 (.947) over the past five seasons. South Carolina has not missed the NCAA tournament since the 2010-2011 season – a run of twelve straight appearances.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Travis Bell)

Dylan Nolan is the director of special projects at FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore school of business in 2021 with an accounting degree. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.

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5 comments

Squishy123 (the original) March 11, 2024 at 5:13 pm

Cut your hair and stop trying to look like such a badass… you’re 5’4″ and 124 pounds. My windshield wipers could take you out.

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Squishy123 (the original) March 11, 2024 at 5:14 pm

Women’s basketball would only be watchable if they allowed hockey rules to be in play.

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The Colonel Top fan March 11, 2024 at 6:38 pm

Squishy – hate to disagree with you but the women’s game is (generally) played with much more finesse than the men’s. I would much rather watch Staley’s squad play than ANY NCAA Men’s or NBA team but in truth, as long as it’s the Gamecocks playing, I’ll watch!

“Class act coach” Mulkey came out in the news and said she wished than Cardoso had pushed the “Bayou Barbie” Angel Reese cause she’s closer in size to Cardoso. Mulkey isn’t real bright, Cardoso could have handled the Barbie and half her bench in a real fight. Cardoso was the number 1 center in the country her senior year and plays internationally as well as for USC. International ball is about as chippy as it gets.

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The Colonel Top fan March 11, 2024 at 6:39 pm

Oh, I do agree with you Squishy about Dylan’s hair – Dude , really, get a haircut.

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J Doe March 11, 2024 at 7:39 pm

1. I agree about the haircut, Dylan. You look like a damn hippie.

2. Your reporting is inaccurate about the brother being charged. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and assault & battery 3rd. He was a guest of Greenville County overnight in their lovely detention facility.

3. You talk about apologies but ignored Kim Mulkey’s white trash response. The differences between her and Staley are worth nothing, but I know your puppet master isn’t going to let Staley be seen in a positive light compared to a coach more politically aligned.

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