USA 66, Lotos Gdynia 61

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March 8, 2006 • Gdynia, Poland
Story || Box Score

USA head coach ANNE DONOVAN, Seattle Storm
On the opposing team:
Lotos played very, very well. We were forced to do a lot of different things that we really hadn't worked on, like the zone, tonight. They did a lot of good things to stay in the game and really made us work hard for the win. They're a very good team, we recognize they're one player down without Biba (2006 EuroLeague All-Star Agnieszka Bibrzycka) and we'll have our hands full tomorrow night.

It's hard to play a team blind, so to speak, but did you expect them to play so close and that tough physically?
You know, the big girls who we thought would be a little bit slower and we could take advantage of their lack of foot-speed. But they did a great job in the low post with our smaller posts, making us work. Swin (Cash) was definitely outmatched from a size standpoint, which was difficult for us early.

Diana Taurasi had a big three and Katie Smith had some nice plays down the stretch to help us out. How big was that?
Our veteran players, our Olympians really stepped up big in the fourth quarter. Diana hit two back-to-back buckets, Katie hit a big three and that little run was the difference.

You also played a zone defense during that run. Can you tell me about that?
We had no practice with the zone at all so we went out there and improvised with that, recognizing that their inside game was hurting us. A number of players were in foul trouble so we decided to go sit in a two-three zone and see if they could beat us from the outside, which they couldn't do.

How do you prepare for tomorrow night's game with the addition of a key player on both sides of the court in DeLisha Milton-Jones and Agnieszka Bibrzycka?
Well we know that we won't be playing as much zone with Biba coming back for them. She's such a deadly outside shooter with tremendous range. It's going to be difficult to play that much zone again. But DeLisha helps us greatly also on the inside, where we struggled at times tonight to make the offense flow. We became a really perimeter-dominated team, where we need to have more of an inside presence. D will help us with that.

The team had a lot of defensive lapses against Sopron, did you think the defense was better tonight?
Yes, our defense was a little bit better, especially playing in a zone that we really hadn't practiced that much. The girls showed a lot of grit to pull off that win in that environment, playing zone defense and hitting some big shots in the fourth quarter, it really showed a lot of heart.

KARA BRAXTON, Detroit Shock
How did it feel to get out there and contribute after having to sit out the first game?
It's good. It felt good, but I didn't come out and play too good when I first came out and played. I think I was really excited and happy to get in. But after I got into the flow of things, got settled down and relaxed, it went smooth.

What was the crowd like?
The crowd, they have a great fan squad. They were up the whole game cheering them on. Never, at any point, were they down. Their team is good and they are bringing back another player tomorrow (2006 EuroLeague All-Star Agnieszka Bibrzycka), so they should really be on top of their game.

You'll have DeLisha Milton-Jones back from the EuroLeague All-Star Game tomorrow also:
Oh yeah, we're both adding one, but we're still going to go at it.

SWIN CASH, Detroit Shock
Were you surprised by how much they stayed with you all night?
No, not really. Their team has been playing together for a long time now, so I wasn't surprised. They played hard, they had a great crowd, but I was happy with our effort. We hung in there. Every game is not going to be pretty. We like the easier ones, but we'll take the hard ones too. I'm just happy with our team. Everyone kept fighting to the end and we're happy to get the win.

Is it good to go out there and play a tough game like that as opposed to having an easy win?
I think games like that build character and everyone's comments after the game were, ‘we can't wait to get back to the next game tomorrow.' So you love to see that type of energy. We're still a young team, we're learning, not only the system, but learning how to represent your country basically. Even though we have five Olympians here who have gone through it, (three of us) were pretty young on the Olympic team, so I'm just happy to see the fight in us.

What did you think about that crowd?
Oh it was awesome. That's what's so great about Europe, you get those rowdy crowds that are into it. They were chanting the whole game and that's what really makes it a fun atmosphere.

NICOLE OHLDE, Minnesota Lynx
On tonight's game:
I think we had some really good moments, then we also had some places where we were lacking defensive effort and also spacing, that kind of stuff. I think we're still getting used to playing with each other, but we need to put together a full 40 minutes and play hard on both ends.

What happened when you showed them the zone defense?
We kind of improvised, we were talking with each other and working through it. We were able to get them out of a rhythm for a little bit and hold them to just a few points in the fourth quarter and that helped us get back on top.

Is it good sometimes to have games like that, to have to fight for the win instead of cruising through the game?
I don't think those games ever feel good, besides the fact that you're getting the win. But I think it shows a lot for the team that we did fight back. We got huge shots and huge stops from people. People stepped up and made some big plays.

KATIE SMITH, Detroit Shock
On tonight's game:
It was a tough game, their low post gave us everything we could handle. With the team that we have in a short amount of time I still feel that this win was big. Playing in an atmosphere with these fans was great. We definitely want to play better tomorrow and as always it's always a pleasure to be back in Gdynia. They cheered for Chasity (Melvin) and me a little bit.

Did you think they were going to make it such a close game?
Obviously they downplayed their team, but when the USA comes to town, you can basically write off any record or anything they've done. They're going to come out and play. I thought we started off well. But as coach Thibault said, we mentally just relaxed and they continued to play hard and got themselves right back in the game. They believed they could win and that was our fault, we have to put people away and not give them the chance, especially in their home arena.

What happened to the team's shooting? It didn't seem like you all were able to get much to fall.
We probably should have taken a deep breath there for a second. Obviously some of the officiating was a little hard, like things where maybe you would have gotten called or whatnot. Besides that we still have to find a way to but the ball into the hole. But also we just have to be a little smarter, taking a jump shot rather than taking it into the crowd. Just things where we need to take our time and play a little smarter. Hopefully we'll do that tomorrow night and finish this trip off with a bang.

Can you compare this team tonight and the one you played on when you played for Lotos?
The team now is young and we had I think four WNBA players, some veterans, but they still play hard. It's just different combinations, it's a different team. But I like how they play, they don't give up and they compete.

What kind of player is Agnieszka Bibrzycka, who will play against the USA tomorrow night?
I think Biba, being a young guard, is one of the best guards. She shoots the ball well, she's a good athlete. She's a good size for a guard (6'2") and she's a solid, fundamental player.

DIANA TAURASI, Phoenix Mercury
On the physicality of the game:
That's the European game, to let a lot go, and then it seems that the softest touch is a foul. But that's just getting used to European basketball and FIBA basketball. I think everyone's played overseas so we weren't shocked about it but we have to do a little bit better job of handling that kind of pressure.

On tonight's game:
You know we made runs and then we let them get back in it. We have a young team, we've never played together, so we have to get used to each other. That team's a good European team, people made shots at the end and we played well to win.

The shots weren't falling on either side of the court tonight, it showed a lot of character to keep playing through that. What did you think about the shooting?
It's easy to win when you play well, but to struggle offensively and to have to chip away at it, little by little, it showed a lot of character from the veterans and everyone, the coaches too.

What do you think will happen tomorrow night with the addition of a top player on each side?
It's going to be nice to have DeLisha back. She brings so much energy and gives us a different dimension that most teams don't really have with a four-man, she can do so much. Obviously they'll have Biba back, who can shoot and is one of the best players in Europe, so it's going to be fun. We got to know them a little better tonight so hopefully tomorrow we can do a better job.

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