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Staley, Sutton Reflect on Gamecocks' Landmark Victory

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WBB-11 Dawn Staley at Tennessee.jpegThe excitement all day has been our Women's Basketball team making history last night with their 64-60 victory over #8 Tennessee. It was South Carolina's first victory over the Lady Vols in Knoxville and only the second win in program history, with the only other coming in 1980. Pat Summitt's team had not lost to an SEC opponent on their home court since 2008, but all that came to an end behind a career-high 27 points from senior Markeshia Grant, including seven three point baskets. Fellow senior La'Keisha Sutton added 12 points of her own and clinched the victory for Carolina by knocking down both free throws on a 1-and-1 chance.  (Click here to see the full recap, photo galleries, post-game interviews and highlights) Dawn Staley's squad improved their overall record to 18-5 and 7-3 in the SEC.

Staley and Sutton were all smiles when they met with the media Friday afternoon to reflect on the victory and its significance.

"The locker room was very loud [after the game]," said Sutton. "It was really exciting just to see everybody happy and just cheering. It really touched us, Markeshia was crying...there was a lot of energy."

WBB-11 Team celebrates at Tennessee2.jpeg

While Staley said the team would still stick to their 24 hour rule of celebrating a victory or mourning a loss, she confirmed that this was a truly proud moment for her as a coach.

"I just told them [after the game] that it was a very proud moment for the people that were standing in the room, but also for the people who were part of other Gamecock eras," said Staley. "I got text messages, phone calls from former players who really believed in us winning the game and making history, so it was a great, proud moment that we want to enjoy."

"We talked about [the 24 hour rule] last night on the bus," said Sutton, smiling. "We said we were going to celebrate this one just a little longer, but we still have to prepare for the next team... after today we can start focusing on Arkansas."

Coach Staley said in her post-game interview that as far as wins in her coaching career, this one might be the biggest. The significance of the game was not lost on Athletics Director Eric Hyman nor the HBC, Steve Spurrier, who were both in attendance at the game in Knoxville with their wives, Pauline and Jerri, along with a contingent of die-hard Gamecock fans overjoyed to witness the win in person. 

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Gamecock fans after the win, looking much happier than their orange-clad counterparts

"I just wanted to win the game for a lot of reasons, for our players, fans, but when you look at us not winning in 32 years in the history of our program, that's something special," said Staley. "There are a lot of players that put on a Gamecock uniform that were not victorious when we played against Tennessee. We're changing generations."

However, as momentous a win as this one was, Staley was quick to say this is not the end of the season - there is still a lot of work to be done to finish the season strong and secure an NCAA Tournament berth.

"You've got to be somewhat nervous that our team will be thinking that this is our pinnacle of our season, which it isn't," explained Staley. "This [game vs. Tennessee] is a point in our journey which we highlighted on. We wanted to win, like we've wanted to do the last four years and what other teams in the past wanted to do. It just so happens that it's smack in the middle of our conference season, but we keep moving on because our ultimate goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament and hopefully win some games in the tournament."

Click here to watch video of all of Coach Staley and Sutton's comments.

Next up for women's hoops is another road game at Arkansas on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 8:00 p.m. They then return home for the first of just three remaining home games on Sunday, Feb. 12, at 5:00 p.m. vs. Florida. Come out and cheer on your Gamecocks!


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