USA 66, Russia 62 • Additional Quotes

August 27 , 2004  • Athens, Greece

USA head coach Van Chancellor
Was Sheryl Swoopes in there at the end for defense or her clutch shooting?
I've been with her seven years, four WNBA championships. She's made every big time play you can make at the end of a game. I'm going to go to whoever's guiding me there. I've never had any doubts. I knew she had to make them, she's missed too many (grins). I knew it was the law of averages. I had no doubt about that. She wasn't in for defense.

On Sheryl Swoopes' shot at the end of the game:
They actually went to a one-two-two zone and we had not seen that. We struggled a little until we could get a timeout. Then we got her the basketball and we ran a little screen on the ball. She didn't take the screen, she went against the screen. That left her open. That was a little bit of her own (making). I'd like to tell you that I called that play, but I'd be lying. I just had her getting the ball, that's all I did. She did the rest.

On not playing close games until now and how the team has responded:
I couldn't do anything about that. I thought they responded to everything I've asked them to do since 2002 (World Championship).

Their team, their staff, everybody from Russia, did a great job today. They did a tremendous job, what a game. We were just fortunate enough to win. We are very grateful for that and they should be commended for playing so well.

SWIN CASH (Detroit Shock)
On Russia's confidence before the game against USA
There has been a lot of talk about this rematch but now it is time to get ready for the gold medal game. At the end, we made great plays defensively. Great players stepped up at crunch time.

We were very aware (of Russia's boasting prior to the game) but that makes for a fun, interesting game. The game got physical but we adjusted to it.

On her role
My job is to play great defense and get rebounds. Fortunately I was able to get on the boards and make things happen.

On the close game
It is better for us - we have to learn how to play. It was great for us to go through this today ... the game before the gold medal game we went through just about everything. Now it is just a matter of us refocusing.

On Sheryl Swoopes' clutch performance in the fourth quarter
Great players always show up at times when their teams need them. She came back in and fortunately hit some big shots for us.

I think as a team Russia had been waiting for us and it was a matter of us having all players step up. One through 12, we have the best players in the world and Sheryl was able to come out of her slump and hit some big shots.

On the physical game with Russia
It was very physical and we were able to get through it. We know that we have been through just about every challenge you can go through as a team. We stuck together, especially when they (Russia) started chipping away at the lead.

Re: Dawn Staley
I think she is just a great player, but more than anything a great teammate, a great persona nd a great friend. She has been a great mentor to me. She has helped me through a lot.

Do you feel you would let Dawn and Sheryl and Lisa down if you didn't win gold?
Definitely. We now this is going to be Dawn's last time around. And Lisa and Sheryl haven't really said if they are coming back. We want to come out for them and for all of us. We all want it. But , I think for them, I think we want to go out with a bang.

How would you sum up the game today?
I think it was very competitive and physical. We came out in the first half and we were very focused. We were able to attack them instead of being attacked. The second half they came back and chipped away, just like they did in 2002 and that's what we expected them to do. I think overall our big players stepped up down the stretch.—Lisa, Sheryl, Pee Wee.

How do you feel going into the gold medal game?
I feel good. We're going back tonight and watch some video and get ready for tomorrow, but I am ready.

SHANNON JOHNSON (San Antonio Silver Stars)
This team is 12 strong, no matter who come off the bench, no matter who starts, this is a very strong team. It doesn't matter who plays, how we play it, who puts the ball in the hole, as long as we do it. It says USA on the front of our jerseys and that's what we worry about. We know exactly what that means, that means going out there and playing as a team and enjoying it This is a very good win for us but were going to keep ourselves focused for another game.

This was your closest game yet, talk about the team's mind set.
We knew these games would be close. We been preparing the entire time, we went to practice and we didn't let ourselves down by not practicing and taking time off because we were beating other teams. We kept our focus and the coaches did a great job of keeping us ready. We knew they'd play some zone, we knew different things they'd do, we just tried to attack them tonight.

You had a spurt there at the end of the third quarter when you made a couple of shots, talk about that.
That's my job to try and bring a spark off the bench. We always say try and make a difference when we come of (the bench), give a spark, try and do something different. It's been a lot of fun playing with this team, everybody is really confident and helping each other out.

We weren't putting the ball in the hole, Coach told me to take the ball to the basket. A couple of times I went before and had an opening but just wasn't able to knock the shot down. He told me to keep my confidence and just knock the shot down

Is this as physical of a game as you have played?
They were very physical today. But we knew that, they're a very good team. Russia is a very good team and we knew they would play like that. We came out with a win and are very fortunate.

Your depth wore them down:
Yeah, we've got 12 players that can play and that's one good thing about us. We brought 12 to play not to sit. We've got a rotation out there now and we're going to go out there and try to win the gold medal.

Was it beneficial having a game like this?
It was very beneficial for us, very beneficial mainly because we've been beating everybody by a lot of points. We knew against Russia we weren't going to blow them out, we knew they would stick around, we knew how good they are and we knew we had to go out there and play for 40 minutes.

YOLANDA GRIFFITH (Sacramento Monarchs)
The subs have to come in and do the little things. We have to jump on teams early. It is kind of hard to keep focus with a big lead but we obviously didn't have that luxury tonight. This was a hard-fought, physical game between two great teams. Whoever we play tomorrow, I am sure it is going to be a great game.

One step closer. Are you grateful to have a test like that before the gold medal game?
Yes. It is always good to have a close game like this. It gives us things to work on defensively and offensively. They ran a lot of screens and they hit some threes we didn't think were going to go down. It was a great game, a great effort by both teams and I think our depth came through for us. Our starters held it down defensively in the end and that is what finalized the victory for us today.

How deep is the talent on this team?
We believe in each other. It doesn't matter who starts for this team. It is a great twelve, twelve great players, All-Americans, All-WNBA, you name it, but all that doesn't matter. You just have to know your role and be able to come in and give the team a boost. If it's not the points, then make it defense or rebounds. And that is what we did today.

Was that the most physical game this far?
No. All the game have ben physical, but this is one of the most physical. I think that tomorrow is going to be the big challenge for us.

Is the intensity level for this team right where you want it to be?
No. No. I think tomorrow you're going to see the USA team capable of doing a lot of different things. I think today we played a little tight, but our depth came through for us and we got the victory. Tomorrow is the big challenge.

How was Russia able to hang in there most of the game. Was it a tighter game than you had expected?
We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew Russia had some good outside shooteres and some big players. There were some offensive boards that we didn't get that normally we do. We knew they would be tough, but our depth helped us prevail. You aren't going to blow out a team one game away from the gold medal game. You can't think like that.

You have to work hard. And I think that is what we did. No matter how close they got, we always knew something good was going to happen for our team, whether it be some rebounds, a big three from Tina or a crucial putback from Lisa or our point guards running the show. We have a lot of confidence in one another.

Was that run at the end of the third quarter a big key to the game? It seemed to kid of swing the omentum back to the United States.
Yes it did. We knew we weren't hitting the shots form outside. We knew that if we continued to crash the boards offensively, we would get a chance to get the lead and we got a lead twice in the third quarter. They hit some shots we didn't expect to fall. We needed this test. We played Greece and knew it was going to be a big crowd , but I think today was a challenge for us and we didn't panic. We just came through in the end.

A couple of key baskets came today when you were trailing the play and cleaned up some missed shots. Has that kind of been your calling card this Olympics?
They brought me on this team to rebound. It's the only thing I've ben focused on, trailing the play or getting the big offensive boards when we miss a shot and kicking it back ut so we can run the clock. We have a great team, a great starting five. We have great players coming off the bench. As long as you understand your role and come in and do the little things you'll be okay.

What's the sense going into the gold medal game? Relief to get past Russia or anticipation of a possible third straight gold for the USA?
Right now, coach is in the locker room writing on the board, getting ready for whoever we play next. There is no time to relax. We did take a deep breath after the game, but we know we didn't play to our abilities today. Tomorrow we have to play Brazil or Australia and everybody must come to perform. That's just the bottom line.

On the match up vs. Australia
We're going to focus on everybody. We're not just going to think about (Penny) Taylor or (Lauren) Jackson. Trish Fallon was shooting the threes last game I looked at and they have a good team. They had a good team in 2000 and they have a great team this year. We've got to pay attention to everybody.

In 2000, there was a huge rivalry in the works, as they were talking before the game that this was there time on their home court…Do you think it might be the same thing?
Whoever wins the other semifinal today, it's going to be a dog-fight. You work so hard just to get to this point, so you're not going to turn it over to someone or to another team.

Can you comment on Australia's Lauren Jackson?
She a great player. She can hit the three, she can put the ball on the floor, and she has a tremendous game. You've got to play close attention to everything and try to get in to her early. That's it. She's there leaders and since 2000, they have put everything on her. But, one player is not going to beat the USA team. But this year, they have a lot of players stepping up and it's taken the pressure off of her. That allows her to relax more and player her game.

When you play against Russia, you already know that they have so many tricks in the bag, a totally different starting lineup. You never know what they are going to come with. But, we just weathered the storm. This is the closest game that we've played and we were expecting that. But, we showed a lot of heart. We played together and (Sheryl) Swoopes stepped up big at the end.

I just gave her a hug and said, ‘Way to step up when we needed you.' I thought she hit the two big shots for us.

Is Russia a big rival for the USA?
We're rivals with everybody. You can pick your poison, whether it's Russia or Australia or Brazil? I think that Russia has come out – when you think of the old Soviet Union, the movie Miracle, – there were so many great battles with Russia and the USA, it carries over. It's always a very clean game. You work hard and it's kind of like being in a chess match. They keep making moves, we make some moves. They went to a zone and they might think it would hurt us. And it did for a minute.

We made an adjustment because we've been practicing against a zone. We were prepared for this game.

This was the closest Olympic game you have had in a while. Was that good and did it make it more fun to play?
It was good because, I thought we showed a lot of heart. I said to my teammates, ‘the difference in this game is going to be about heart.' It's not going to be about x's and o's anymore. I went after one of those rebounds and it was big. That was the most important thing. We showed a lot of heart and character.

You mentioned that Russia came with a bag of tricks, what do you mean by that?
They came with a different starting lineup. We'd only seen Baranova start only one game and she was in the starting lineup. I think they played the whole tournament not shooting the ‘three-ball' and they came out shooting some threes.

If you scouted them, you would think they don't shoot the ‘three-ball' when they can actually shoot it very well. I think there are some things and techniques that they work on and they don't show everything that they have.

On the size of Russia and how did that play into your performance?
I think it was good for us. It was a good challenge. In the next game, they don't have as many 6-6 or 6-8 players, so we will be able to attack the basket. Russia altered some shots out there, definitely.

We knew it was going to be a battle but one through 12, I don't think any team brought the arsenal we brought. I feel this team is more talented than any other team I played on...talented. There are so many players with us who haven't been through the Olympics though so you have to lend your experience and leadership skills so they understand what is on the line.

At the end of the game, you have to have players on the court who understand the sense of urgency you must have to win.

It is good to get energized in a tough game - we are really strong across the line and everyone has had to step up and contribute. We always seem to bring out the best in other countries - they always get up to play us...but over the long haul, we just wear the other teams out. We have different personnel, different ways of playing.

On Swoopes' play
Those are the plays we have come to know that she is going to make at the end of basketball games. She wasn't shooting the ball well throughout the game but when the game is on the line, she is going to make plays. She will score a basket or find someone that will lead to a basket.

Sheryl played big for us again. She's that type of player .She's not going to shy away from taking the big shot. If the game is on the line, I know she wants the ball, I know Lisa wants the ball and I know they are going to make plays to put us in the position to win the game.

I thought it was a very good game. Just like coach Chancellor said, I thought both teams played extremely hard for 40 minutes. Having played Russia in the World Championship in 2002 we knew exactly what they were going to bring to the table. I think they knew exactly what we were going to bring. Not only is it great for the Olympics, but I think it's great for women's basketball to have such great competition. Bottom line, I think the team that executed down the stretch is the team that won. We had some players who came in off the bench in the first half when I couldn't throw one in the (Agean) Sea, I thought we had some players who stepped up and really gave us an extra lift off the bench.

Were you expecting Russia to be so good?
For the most part a lot of people expect the U.S. to dominate. But I think that every other team, every other country has gotten much better. Especially in women's basketball. We have so many international players who are playing in the WNBA. That also says a lot about the talent they have. We knew it was going to be a battle. A lot of times people expect us to come out and beat teams by 30, 40. But when you're playing a team like Russia, a team capable of scoring and playing great defense, you have to go out and not worry about what you've done in the past, who they've beaten, who they haven't beaten, and focus on the game of the moment.

We approached this game just like it was for the gold medal. We came here with mind and one goal and that's to take the gold medal back home, regardless of who we have to go through to do that. It was a tough battle for us tonight.

On the Elena Baranova turnover late in the game:
I think at that particular point in the game, having played against Elena in the WNBA, once she gets it down low she's usually going to go up. At that particular point in the game I didn't think she was looking to kick it back out. She was pretty much at the basket and I thought it was going up. I was just hoping that if she did kick it out somebody would rotate to them (on defense). Because there at the end of the game they really started shooting the ball well and hitting some threes. I hadn't really done much the entire game so I wanted to be at the right place at the right time. I thought that particular play was pretty huge for us.

On her two big shots near the end of the game:
throughout the entire game I felt really good. I was really focused, not so much on having to get the job done offensively, we've got 12 players on this team who are capable of scoring. Obviously I felt like I had the shots. The shots felt good, they just weren't falling. What makes our team a little better at this level is because we have a little more experience. We have players who have been there before. It was important for me to not get down on myself because I wasn't hitting my shots, they weren't falling, because there were so many other things I had to focus on, I had to concentrate on doing.

That first shot I made, I think there were three or four seconds on the shot clock, Dawn (Staley) gave it to me and said, ‘shoot.' For me, it feels good to know that my teammates know that I'm struggling, but they still have the confidence in me to get the ball into me to get the job done. Once I let the first one go it felt really good. I knew that one was going in. It felt really good to come through down the stretch.

TINA THOMPSON (Houston Comets)
On Sheryl Swoopes play in the final minutes
That's kind of her. She has a little switch she just turns on you know at the end of the game and you can just count on her taking and making big shots like that. It's just a part of her personality and I wasn't surprised she was hitting them. I was kind of wondering what took her so long, right?

Did you expect a close game?
We didn't expect anyone to be a push over. Every game we've played we've played really hard. We've come out and given everything we had every single time we've played and I think that has enabled us to be in the position that we're in right now. And the fact that we play at such a high level and don't take anyone for granted allowed us to prepare for this game. Even though the game we played we won by a pretty big margin,. We didn't have to turn it up. We're already up and prepared for most anything that comes at us at this point

What's your thoughts, first Olympics, playing for the gold medal, excitement, anticipation, what's going through your mind, a sense of relief that you got by Russia?
I don't feel relief, I'm not celebrating or anything like that because I didn't come here just to beat Russia in the semifinals, I came to play well and win a gold medal in the gold medal game. So right now I'm glad we got past Russia and I'm awaiting for the winner of the next game who we'll play tomorrow. I'm not going to express too much emotion other than in game emotion until it actually happens.

You stepped it up defensively today against Baranova (Elena), did it help being familiar with her from the WNBA?
Obviously familiarity helps a little bit, in the WNBA I guard Elena quite a bit. She's a tough player for her size. She's about two or three inches taller than I am and she has great versatility, she handles the ball really good and plays an inside-out game or outside-in game, whatever day it might be. She's a tough player but we didn't under estimate her but the fact that we're really familiar with her being that we played against her internationally as well as in the WNBA definitely helps.





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