Ahead of their primetime matchup, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley and Stanford head coach Tar VanDerveer wore long-sleeved shirts with Brittney Griner's face. It came following the moment of silence for the WNBA star who, according to the United States government, has been wrongfully detained in Russia for 277 days.
After the game, where No. 1 South Carolina staged a 76-71 comeback win versus No. 2 Stanford in overtime, Staley spoke about the importance of continuing say Griner's name.
“I went up and wrote a letter,” said Staley, who wore a “Free BG” cap after her Gamecocks won 76-71 in overtime. “Tara is leading this campaign on this particular campus, and we both know Brittney. She's been part of our basketball family, and she's in a fight for her life. I know there are other Americans that are wrongly detained, and obviously we want them all to come home, but when you have a relationship and a friendship with someone, it's personal.
“It's a personal fight for us to bring her home, and every little bit counts. Every little bit, every letter. … If it was anyone's loved one, loved ones, you would fight for them. I do think there's a waymaker out there that's going to make the way for her to get home a lot sooner hopefully than a lot of people expect. I'm one that's going to think optimistically and prayerfully that she gets home soon.”
Griner's absence continues to impact the country and abroad as her family hopes she doesn't have to serve her full nine-year prison sentence. Russia expressed optimism a prisoner swap could happen but the U.S. said it was more political theater, something Russia has continued since it detained Griner last February.
“It's been 276 days since Brittney Griner has been incarcerated in Russia,” VanDerveer said yesterday after the game. “Hopefully, we brought some good attention to that. We've been saying something every game and having a moment of silence for her. We need to bring her home.”