Former SEC coaching rivals reunite in the Elite 8

Former SEC coaching rivals reunite in the Elite 8
SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 28: Georgia Tech takes on South Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Alamodome on March 28, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. (Source: 2021 NCAA Photos)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The stars align perfectly in Texas.

Dawn Staley and Vic Schaefer clash on the big stage once again, seeking a banner victory.

“The good news is I don’t have to play against her one-on-one,” said Schaefer. “I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do very well.”

To be fair, Schaefer’s teams over the years have not done well either.

The first-year University of Texas coach spent the last eight seasons as Carolina’s SEC rival at Mississippi State. Staley’s Gamecocks bested Schaefer’s Bulldogs 12 times in 15 matchups, including four SEC tournament title games.

The most significant victory of all came in Dallas, Texas, in the 2017 national championship.

“They were all barn burners,” said Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley. “I always look forward to playing Vic because of what he puts into his scouting reports, game plan, and scheme.”

Carolina won by double-digits in each championship bout between Staley and Schaeffer. The final score in those title games fails to illustrate the intense challenge.

“It was not easy by any means,” Staley emphasized. “Every game that we played was a close match for us.”

“Had some great battles over the years,” added Schaefer. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for them.”

There’s a sense of comfort for both coaches leading up to Tuesday’s Elite 8 matchup.

“It’s good to know what you’re going to be faced with because you’ve seen it so many different times,” Staley said. “He’s trying to outfox us, and we’re trying to outfox him. I look forward to it.”

“My staff and I really know what’s coming,” Schaefer said. “We will be able to convey that to our kids.”

Even though the Longhorns enter as a No. 6 seed, it will be no simple task for Carolina to punch a ticket to the Final Four. Texas held the nation’s top-scoring team, Maryland, to 30 points below their season average (90.8 ppg) in the Sweet 16.

“How we do it is we try to stay as fluid as possible offensively,” Staley said. “Take the shots the defense gives us. Don’t over dribble. Don’t over pass. Take the shots the defense gives you. You have to be able to make that decision in a split second. You won’t have a whole lot of time with the way Texas plays defense.”

“They’re going to be excited about it,” Schaefer added. “I’m excited about it. We just played two great teams, two great offensive teams, that are well-coached. It doesn’t get any easier, and that’s ok. It’s not supposed to be easy.”

The winner on Tuesday night advances to the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas.

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