Missouri AD blames South Carolina coach for fans spitting on players, yelling racial slurs at women's team

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk accused South Carolina fans of some really awful behavior following the women’s basketball teams’ game Sunday in Columbia, S.C.

And he singled out Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley to bear the blame.

“We had players spit on and called the N-word and things like that,” Sterk said Tuesday in an interview on Columbia radio station KTGR 1580 AM. “I mean it was not a good environment, and unfortunately I think, you know, Coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere. And it’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that.”

A Gamecocks spokesperson told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Staley would have no immediate comment on Sterk’s remarks. She is scheduled to talk to reporters Wednesday, a day she leads the defending NCAA champions against current No. 1 Connecticut.

Things have been testy between the Missouri and South Carolina teams all year. During their first meeting earlier this month in Columbia, Mo. — an 83-74 Missouri win — a Tigers fan is said to have been overheard calling Staley and the South Carolina players “thugs.”

This past weekend, two players were ejected and multiple fouls were called after things got a little too physical during South Carolina’s 64-54 win. Former Missouri player Sierra Michaelis was at the game and tweeted afterward that home fans were spitting on players from the opposing team.

Asked about the spitting allegations Tuesday, Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said, “Let me choose my words wisely.”

“I was really disappointed with some things that transpired,” she said. “There’s no place in our game for that. Fans got to be better all around. Our side, their side, everybody’s side. Fans got to be better. These are daughters playing a game they love to play. There were certainly some things that were really unfortunate that transpired, not only verbally and some other things you alluded to. It’s really unfortunate. But you’ve got two fan bases that are passionate and just got to clean it up a little bit.”

There is said to be no TV footage available from after the game. South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner released a statement Tuesday regarding the alleged behavior of the fans.

“Upon hearing the accusations regarding our crowd’s behavior towards the Missouri team, the athletics department conducted a review of our operations from the game, including interviews with staff and security personnel,” he stated. “In this review, we received no confirmation of the alleged behavior directed at the visiting team by fans at the game.”

charles.schilken@latimes.com

Twitter: @chewkiii

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