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Dawn Staley breaks down in tears and shouts out Caitlin Clark after South Carolina bests Iowa

While celebrating her team’s 87-75 victory in the NCAA championship, the decorated coach also took a moment to praise Clark for being “one of the GOATs.”
/ Source: TODAY

Dawn Staley’s tears poured out of her as she celebrated her South Carolina Gamecocks defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2024 NCAA women’s championship game. 

With their 87-75 victory at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland April 7, Staley and her team finished the season with a perfect 38-0 record. When ESPN’s Holly Rowe asked Staley about the win, the decorated coach was so overcome with emotion that she needed a moment to bow her head and wipe away her tears.

“We serve an unbelievable God,” she said. As she started to choke up again, the 53-year-old said they had “uncommon faith” and repeated that she was “so proud.” 

She applauded her team for executing their game plan after falling short to Iowa last year during the Final Four. 

Freshman Tessa Johnson stepped up, leading her team with 19 points off the bench. Star center Kamilla Cardoso was unstoppable throughout the game and ended with 15 points and 17 rebounds. Cardoso, who is originally from Montes Claros, Brazil, was later declared the most outstanding player for the 2024 NCAA championship. 

“It doesn’t always end like you want it to end, much like last year,” Staley said. “But my freshies are at the top of my heart because they wanted this. And I hope we can erase whatever pain they had last year, experiencing not being able to finish it here. So I’m just super proud where I work. I’m super proud of our fans. It’s awesome. It’s unbelievable.” 

Staley added that her group cemented their spot in history despite facing obstacles and doubt along the way. The Gamecocks are now the 10th Division I women’s basketball team to finish a season without a loss, according to NBC News. 

When the team was handed their trophy, Staley shared more powerful words about her team’s triumph and praised Iowa star Caitlin Clark. The record-breaking guard scored a game high 30 points and also collected 8 rebounds and 5 assists. But, her team fell short, meaning she will end her college career without securing a NCAA championship

After being presented with the trophy, Staley threw her arms into the air and bathed in the red confetti pouring down on her. 

Staley again began her speech by thanking God for helping her team return to “the same place in which we had sad tears.”

She then pointed out that Cardoso played through a knee injury, which she suffered during the Final Four matchup against NC State, and looks like one of the top picks in the upcoming WNBA draft on April 15. 

“Her teammates did something that no other teammates has ever done for anybody that went to the WNBA in our program: They send her off as a national champion. So this is history for us,” she cheered. 

Staley, continuing a long-standing tradition in sports, announced she was headed to Disney World to celebrate. 

For her final remarks, the coach congratulated Iowa and gave Clark a special shout out. 

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport,” she praised. “She carried a heavy load for our sport. And it’s just not going to stop on a collegiate tour but when she’s the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft. She’s going to lift that league up as well. So Caitlin Clark, if you’re out there, you are one of the GOATs of our game. We appreciate you.” 

Although Clark didn’t win, fans will continue to see more of her impressive shooting and passing in the WNBA. As Staley mentioned, the 22-year-old is expected to be chosen first by the Indiana Fever. 

With Cardoso also predicted to be one of the top draft selections, basketball fans should expect to see more matchups between Cardoso and Clark soon.