USA 83, Australia 63

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April 8, 2006 • Cairns, Australia
Story || Box Score

USA head coach ANNE DONOVAN, Seattle Storm
How difficult was it, arriving in such a short time before the game and getting prepared for this?
You know, that's been the story of our training. This is our third session of training. Katie (Smith) and Alana (Beard) are the only ones who have been with us all the way. So it's been pretty much learn on the fly. They get into game situations and our experience really steps up. Katie tonight, Tina (Thompson) really played well in the second half. It is difficult training, but this is what the games are all about and I'm pleased with the effort tonight.

How were you able to finally pull away?
We were more patient, offensively. We waited for Katie, for Tina. We got open looks and they knocked them down in the second half. And we did a little bit better in the second half keeping them off the free throw line. Although, that's a concern.

On the full court press, you seemed to turn the ball over.
Yeah, we've got some inexperience at the point guard spot and I thought the Opals did a good job trying to take advantage of that. But we figured it out. Katie helped us handle the pressure a little bit more and it's a matter of keeping our composure. Some of the mistakes we made were very uncharacteristic for us.

Is this good competition out here for you?
It's fantastic. Anytime you can play China, Australia and the Taipei team is pretty good as well. This is a great experience for everybody. For our veteran players as well as our youngs.

You've got some really young players, what do you think about their performance over the last two nights?
I saw the box score from last night so I know Candace Parker, in particular, stepped up. Alana Beard is doing a great job at the point for us. They're getting a lot of good experience, but we're able to try a lot of different players. From March 1 through now we've had a lot of players come through the system get comfortable, learn how to play with Katie, learn how to play with Tina, and I think it'll help us in the long run.

While I'm sure you'd like to have at least some kind of core group of players to prepare for the World Championship, a training camp like this gives the youth of USA Basketball a chance to play with the veterans for a couple of weeks. How important is that?
That's historically the way the women's program has been at USA Basketball. The older players have carried the torch and passed it down. It's gone from T (Teresa Edwards) and Tree (Katrina McClain), to Lisa (Leslie), Dawn (Staley) and (Sheryl) Swoopes. And now those players are starting to groom the younger generation. It's important and that's why this program has been so strong. Because there has been a healthy mix of veteran and young so when the veterans are ready to retire the young are ready to pick up the torch.

On coaching this group of players:
It's great. It's new every time. With the young players added to this trip, along with the comfort level of A.B. (Alana Beard), Katie and Tina, it is just a great group with a lot of energy. If you look at everyone who played tonight, everyone contributed. So it's fun. It's really fun.

Were you pleased with the team's effort?
Absolutely. On defense we have some work to do, no question. But that's the hardest piece. When you put a group together, it's the hardest piece - to be able to get everyone playing in a system the way that you want. We need to do a better job of that. We're giving away way too many free throws. Our opponents shot 72 free throws in the last two games so we have to get a lot better defensively. But we will as we get more comfortable with each other. I was really pleased with everybody stepping up. We have a lot of young kids handling the point position right now and Australia came right at us and pressured us. Twenty turnovers are too many, but overall we handled that nicely.

SWIN CASH, Detroit Shock
How tough was tonight's game?
It's one of those things. We played them in the gold medal game in 2004. It doesn't matter what team you come with, it's still USA versus Australia and we wanted to take pride in that and get after it for 40 minutes. I was really proud of our effort down the stretch and we were happy to get the win.

How were you able to pull away?
I think we were more aggressive, getting after it defensively, getting deflections, Candace (Parker) coming up with some loose balls and pushing the tempo. Those are our strengths and we have to play to that.

Your inside players were pretty strong tonight and held Australia's Lauren Jackson to 12 points:
Lauren's a great player. She's going to get hers, but if you can basically contain her to an extent and make other players have to beat you, it works to your advantage. I think we had some great help defense, the younger players came in and gave us a great effort. Down the stretch Tina (Thompson) and Katie (Smith) made some big shots. That's what you need, a team effort, to win the game.

JESSICA DAVENPORT, Ohio State / Columbus, Ohio
On tonight's game:
It was really physical. You have Lauren Jackson out there, who was the MVP of the WNBA, and just all their post players who want to bang you all game so it gets pretty physical.

Speaking of Lauren Jackson, were you in awe at all or intimidated at all about going up against her?
No. I was really excited to be able to play against that caliber of player. In practice I've been playing against great players. So my mentality was to just go out there and play.

You and the rest of the post players helped shut down Jackson. What happened there?
It was a team effort. Everybody was guarding her, holding their ground and not letting her get easy baskets.

How much of a difference did the veterans make in the end result?
I think it's very important. Early in the game they got into foul trouble so a lot of young players had to come in . But as the game went on, they came back in and dominated for us.

KARA LAWSON, Sacramento Monarchs.
On tonight's game:
One of the things that coach Donovan keeps telling us is that everybody wants to beat us and everybody's out to get us because we're the No. 1 team in the world. With Australia, I think everybody was excited for the challenge because they're No. 2 the last few times. With us having a lot of younger players who haven't had as much experience against them, it was good for us to come out, take it serious and get the win.

With so many fouls called during the game, was it hard to get into a rhythm?
No, I don't think it was too hard to get into the flow. By fouling it took us out of a lot of things that we excel in. We weren't able to get as many transition opportunities that we would have hoped for. We weren't able to get our defense going and turn out some turnovers. I think it hurts our overall team flow, yes, but as individuals it's not too hard to get into the flow. We just have to get better defensively.

What came together in the final 15 minutes that allowed you to pull away from Australia?
I think it was a combination of things. There were stretches where we had stops defensively, where we didn't foul. Then on the offensive end, I think we're getting smarter where we understand who we need to go to in certain situations in order to be really successful. When you have a player like Tina (Thompson), when she's one-on-one in the block you can get it to her and she can operate from down there. With Katie (Smith), you can get her off screens and get her good looks. Once we learn how to find each other and where everyone can be successful, offensively we're going to be really, really tough to stop. I think that's what happened. We settled down and said, ‘okay, let's go to our veterans, let's get them going.' And they carried us through the second half.

How did it feel to play a game again in a USA Basketball uniform?
It was good, I enjoyed myself playing with veterans and getting a feel for this game at the professional level, so to speak. I enjoyed myself though, it was great to be out there.

How hard was it to play after traveling from the United States and arriving in Australia four or five hours prior to tip-off?
It's hard, but it's more mental than anything. I think I prepared myself as I was coming over, mentally, to not think about being fatigued or anything, just to be ready to help the team.

How noticeable is the difference in the game from the junior and collegiate international ball you've played to this game at the senior team level?
I think it's more physical, the players are definitely much smarter, they're older and use to playing professionals. I think that's the biggest difference.

KATIE SMITH, Detroit Shock
How is the team coming together, how are the young players fitting in?
I think that with what we've been doing, all the changes, people coming in and out, the different environments, we're here in Australia, we've been in Hungary and France, but I'm impressed. I think it's great to groom some of the younger players, some of them have really stepped up. This also gives us a little bit of a heads-up on Australia, China, it's kind of a pre-scouting report. I like where we're headed. Then when you add all the pieces together at the end of the season, we're all going to be clicking and excited to represent the USA.

Talk me through the run you started midway through the third quarter:
I think we decided to be a little more aggressive. Obviously we also picked it up defensively, but we needed to go ahead and get some good looks and knock them down. For myself it's just a matter of not just sliding into the background, but stepping up and making shots, knocking them down. That got us going a little bit. Tina (Thompson) started hitting a few too. I hit a couple, she hit a couple and it gave us a little cushion that helped us down the stretch. We didn't have to sweat it out too much.

How do you work through all the foul calls?
You have to be a little smarter. It is hard if you don't know what's going to be called. There are some things that are called that we don't see in the States, but that's international ball. It's something you have to be aware of. We just have to be smarter, understand that that's just the way it's going to be and not put them on the free throw line. We don't put them on the free throw line, we're going to give ourselves a great chance of getting a little cushion. But it's a great learning experience. It's something I have to do a better job at. We just have to work through it, we have to play smarter and understand when and where not to reach and get whistles.

On the USA - Australia rivalry:
They have a couple players who have been in the league and done some good things. They got the silver (in Athens and Sydney), they've been in the mix these last few years. They play hard and they compete. There's no love loss in a sense of playing, there are a lot of friendships between the players on both teams, but I guess we always know that everyone wants to beat us. They want what we have and we don't want to give it up. We like where we're at.

TINA THOMPSON, Houston Comets
On tonight's game:
It was exciting. Really tough in the beginning, a big grind, but that's how it usually is. In the second half we pulled away and I think we became ourselves. I feel like it's getting to the point where we're really understanding how it is and how it's going to be. The young girls are seeing it for the first time and that's good because they're rising to the challenge. It's great to see.

On the third quarter run that helped the U.S. pull away:
As in the first game, we were fouling too much and letting them get too many points from the free throw line, as well as unguarded baskets. In the second half , Anne said it best, we can't just say we're disciplined. We have to be disciplined. Instead of saying it, we have to be it. That's what we did in the second half, everyone manned up and really, really got down and played some defense. We got some transition buckets and then after that our confidence was sky high. Alana (Beard) and Katie (Smith) ... oh, Katie hit some huge shots, huge 3-pointers on the break a couple times and that gave us some breathing room and we jumped on top of them from there.

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