USA 85, China 77

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April 7, 2006 • Cairns, Australia
Story || Box Score

USA acting head coach DAWN STALEY, Temple University
On coaching in tonight's game:
It was a lot different to sit back and seeing it develop, not being in the mix. Certainly, I think my point guard intuitions kicked in when the game got tight, knowing what plays to run, knowing what I think will work over the course of a game, seeing how they were playing us. Certainly I wasn't able to play, but I was able to call some plays out there that ended up working.

On China and the job that head coach Tom Maher is doing with them:
I think he's going to bring something different to the table. China has always been a pretty good team, a decent team, a competitive team. But I think he's going to bring them to a different kind of level of competitiveness. Just looking at the game that we played, all the way to the fourth quarter it was close. It took some tremendous plays by Candace Parker to get us the victory.

What was the difference in the fourth quarter?
I guess we put people in spots where they could be more effective. We slowed the game down, we were more structured with the things we wanted to do. If they took this away, we did that. When the game gets close like that, you have to give the game a little structure. They took Tina's (Thompson) outside shot away so we were going to go inside. They were going to double it, we had to kick it to get some shots. Ultimately we gave them structure and the players just made plays within the structure.

What will the team see against Australia tomorrow night?
Australia's going to try to win the game, they're going to try to make us very uncomfortable, they're going to try to expose our weaknesses. We haven't really had a whole lot of time to put in a lot of things. But our will to win should kick in. It should be competitive and it should be a measuring stick to see how far we are, what we need to work on. We set out to win every game that we play so this won't be any different.

What do you think about the future of USA Basketball with the play of some of these younger players?
The future is bright for USA Basketball. But that's the future. We're still in the here and the now. We need players who have some experience. Katie, she didn't score a whole lot of points, but her presence on the floor, Tina's presence on the floor ... if we didn't have that veteran leadership out there just to keep things calm, those younger ones won't be able to perform as well as they performed out there. I know that. I think Katie knows that, Tina knows that. They allow Alana, Candace, Jessica and Sylvia to get off, so to speak, because of their presence. People have to respect what they bring to the game.

ALANA BEARD, Washington Mystics
This is now the third group you've played with and in each camp the first game has been tough. Was that what happened tonight?
It definitely took us awhile to get going this time. In Boston it wasn't easy with everything going on, we had different players coming in, we didn't have a set squad yet. But I think we did play fairly well defensively. We played intense defense for maybe 20 seconds and at that end of 20 seconds we fouled them and gave them easy buckets from the foul line. Other than that, I think we did pretty well as a team. But, it's the beginning of a new segment so we just have to get use to each other.

You sent them to the foul line for 31 tries, what was going on out there?
It was just us not moving our feet. I think tiredness might have been a factor in tonight's game. I don't want to put it all on that, but it could definitely be one of those (factors). China just plays smart basketball. They got us up in the air, we reached, and fell into their trap. We definitely gave them a lot of points, 25 points from the foul line, which kept them in the game.

Take me through the fourth quarter and how you pulled away:
We had a few defensive stops, I can't say that defense won the game for us. It was definitely offense. Candace Parker stepped up and did an unbelievable job on the block. We ran one play, we kept going to her and going to her. Tina (Thompson) made great passes into her and she scored easily. I think that was probably the difference in the fourth quarter.

SYLVIA FOWLES, Louisiana State / Miami, Fla.
How did it feel to be out there in your first game at the senior team level?
It felt good. I was a little surprised about the way I played. I thought I was going to come out a little flat. But I guess, being with the players I'm around, I've got no choice but to get better. It felt good to be out there playing again.

Did your confidence level grow a little bit as you started making some plays tonight? It seemed as if you were a little hesitant at times back in Boston a couple times.
My energy level has been up, but my confidence definitely stepped up after a few buckets. Just to see how easy it was, it was just like any other game. I thought that because we were playing overseas it would be a little different. But once I got into the flow I was alright.

How do you feel you matched up with China's big players?
It's kind of different because they all go out on the perimeter and that's something that I have to get adjusted to. But I think I did fairly well.

Are you having fun out here so far?
Oh yeah! I'm definitely having fun with the team. Everyone has energy and we like being around each other so I'm loving it so far.

CANDACE PARKER, Tennessee / Naperville, Ill.
How did it feel to be out there in your first game at the senior team level?
It felt really good to get out there and just play. I've learned a lot playing with the older players. They've taught me a lot and I learned a lot during this game, they really helped me out a lot.

How hard is it to come into a game essentially blind, having had five practices and not knowing anything about your opponent?
I think it's tough because you know nothing about the other team and also with this being our first game, different things like that. I think we did a good job with adjusting in the second half to what they like to run.

What did you think about the Chinese team tonight?
I thought that they were really good. We helped them out a lot by fouling in the first half and I think we made adjustments in the second half. But I think overall they're a good team.

How different was this than your other international experience with USA Basketball as a member of the 2004 USA Junior (U19) World Championship Qualifying Team?
Internationally, my first experience was in Puerto Rico and we handled our opponents pretty well. (The teams here) are good opponents, obviously they're senior national teams so they're not, by any means, what we played (in Puerto Rico). It's different because of how much more physical the game is and how much bigger and stronger the players are.

KATIE SMITH, Detroit Shock
Again, the team had difficulty coming together and getting into the flow in the first game, as was the case in the USA's first two segments.
Yeah, it's another new group. And even with this group, the four days of practice in Boston was always different. People were coming in, people were leaving, people weren't there. So this one was probably the most difficult to prepare for. Plus in Boston there were a lot of distractions and there were a lot of other things that people had to do. But still, being on the floor, competing and finding a way to win, especially when these teams have been together a lot longer, is huge. A lot of people contributed and it was nice to get that one under our belt. We just have to do a better job defensively and then offensively, taking our time to get good looks. Tomorrow is going to be a challenge because they'll want to beat us. Everyone always wants to beat us, but being in Australia it'll be a little more.

How do you rate Dawn Staley's coaching performance tonight?
It was good. Dawn is comfortable, she's got a great vibe, a great feel for the game. She was telling us about all the things that made a difference in the ball game, the adjustments. It was fun to have her on the sidelines. I think it felt pretty natural for her to be there. She seems pretty comfortable in that role. It's easy, as a player, to listen and play for her.

China was a lot tougher tonight than we've seen them in the past few years. They're working on building their team, not only for the ‘06 Worlds, but for the 2008 Olympics. What did you think of them tonight?
They're going to be good. Obviously coaching-wise with Tom Maher, what he did for Australia when he was here was great. And then their toughness, the way they play, they're going to be physical. They're going to come out and they're going to battle. They've always had skill. They've got good size. They get to the free throw line, which was huge for them tonight. They're going to put it together, they're going to be solid, especially with that coaching and their skills, in Beijing. They're in our (2006 FIBA World Championship) pool and we're going to see them again while we're here. I think that'll be nice to see, how we make adjustments and how we fine tune things when we see them again. By all means they're going to be one of those teams you have to be ready for. For all they have and all their skills, getting a win out of them tonight was big.

TINA THOMPSON, Houston Comets
On tonight's game:
I think they pretty much did what we expected them to do. They played pretty much the same kind of game that they've been playing for a long time: driving and kicking and shooting. I think it was a matter of being a little unfamiliar with each other. This team is a lot younger than it has been in the past, there are a lot of new faces and I think that contributed to a lot of it.

But the great thing about the game was that it was a tough game, it definitely shows everyone what we're up against. It's one thing to say, ‘it's going to be tough and we have to give it our best effort because we're getting it all the time from the other teams.' But it's totally different when you get a taste of it and you know exactly what's going to come at you. From that, the game being tough, them playing a really, really good game, which we always expect everyone to do, it definitely shows everyone else who hasn't experienced this type of basketball, at this level, a taste of what we're going to see in the future.

The great thing is that the effort was awesome. Everyone played really hard, we just made a lot of mental mistakes here and there. But we pulled it out.

You mentioned the youth of this team, what do you think of their play tonight?
It's awesome because for the longest time the faces of USA Basketball have been very familiar. It's almost like, Lisa (Leslie) and Dawn (Staley) and Sheryl (Swoopes)... Katie has been around a long time, too. Before them it was Katrina (McClain) and Teresa (Edwards) and Jen (Azzi). Now we're seeing the next batch coming in and making their statement. So it's almost like Jessica (Davenport), Candace (Parker) and Sylvia (Fowles) are like me, Swin (Cash), Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi) at the time Teresa and Katrina were making their transition. And Lisa and those guys, who knows how much longer they're going to play. But when these guys are the future, it's definitely good. USA Basketball is definitely being put into very good hands. Don't forget, we've also got Tamika (Catchings) in the mix, so I think that we're okay. I'm really excited about the effort they gave, as well as their talent level. This is the first time I've really seen them up close and personal and they're tough. To have those guys coming off the bench, it's not a problem at all (laughs).

You've played alongside and against Dawn Staley. What was it like to be coached by her?
In playing with Dawn, she's always been a student of the game and that's something that I admire. In my opinion, basketball is different these days in that players are really athletic and they have nice games that follow that. But being students of the game, it's rare in this day and age. Dawn has always been that kind of person. I enjoy and admire that because I think of myself of being kind of a student of the game. Not just playing, but understanding it and knowing the history. So to see Dawn on the other side of it, I've seen her coach at Temple on TV a couple of times and I've always thought she was good because I knew her depth of the game. She's very precise. I kind of peg her as a player's coach. She's not a big yeller, she gets to the point. ‘This is what we're not doing and this is what we need to do to put us in the position to win.' She was right on point, I don't think there was one thing that I could say I disagreed about. I agreed about everything. She commands the attention when she's talking, that comes from respect and she has that. The fact that she was an awesome player and a student of the game, but to see her on the other side commanding that same type of respect, that really lets you know that she's good at what she does.


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