Australia 76, USA 65

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April 12, 2006 • Canberra, Australia
Story || Box Score

USA head coach ANNE DONOVAN, Seattle Storm
On the second half of today's game:
You have to get stops. Several of those shots were uncontested and we know that you're going to go through lulls offensively, but you'd better be able to step up and get stops, which we didn't do. The 3-point line in the second half just killed us, especially in the third quarter, but also in the last minute of the game.

Was this competition what you were looking for in the Opals World Challenge?
Yeah, it was great. We knew that Australia would come out in the second game, the game that really mattered and with a lot of people here. I have to give them credit, they played very well.

What do you get out of games like this?
It reminds us what I've been saying all along and that's that defensively we've got to step up and get it done. Down the stretch we made a run and cut it, but they hit some big threes. We can't let that happen.

It's a reminder to everybody that the rest of the world is breathing down our necks and we have to play well to continue to stay ahead and we didn't do that tonight. We didn't shoot the ball well, didn't have good defensive possessions. That combination against a team that's playing on their own floor is really a tough thing to beat.

With so many new players who are on this team, it really shows the depth of the players you have in the United States:
Yeah, our junior program is really good. We've done a great job developing the younger players. We got great contributions from them. (Candace) Parker obviously had a marvelous tournament and we got good contributions from the other ones as well. We're in good shape, you add our veteran players with our younger players and we'll field a good team in September that will really compete hard.

I guess you can sit back and be glad thinking about Lauren being with you in Seattle:
That dawned on me once or twice in the game. It'll be nice to see her playing in Seattle again.

USA assistant coach MIKE THIBAULT, Connecticut Sun
What kind of lessons can you take away from this loss, as well as the entire three segments of spring training?
I think there are several things. The one that jumps out the most is that we have to understand how people are going to come out and play against us. How much it means to other teams to try to beat us. The atmosphere we're going to see, I think that's the best, personally. There's a lot of our players who weren't here and the word will get out about how we need to do things.

One of the biggest positives I see is that I look out there and see that we've got four very young players out there on the court in different portions and, for the most part, they made pretty positive contributions. I was very happy with the development of the younger players. Obviously Candace Parker made an impression on everything.

The rest of it, you use it as tools to evaluate what we need to work on, the kinds of things we need to think about this summer, both offensively and defensively. We've only had a couple practices with each group and you can't do many sophisticated things with that situation. Now we can spend time as coaches looking at things that when we get together in August we'll know will fit in that particular team. With the three different trips we can figure out what those things are.

USA assistant coach DAWN STALEY, Temple University
How difficult is this loss, especially after having lost less than 10 games in your USA Basketball career?
It's difficult to lose any basketball game. This is especially tough because I know how much Australia wants to beat us, no matter what the situation. But I don't think our players understand what's at stake. I know it isn't the Olympics, it isn't the World Championship, but anytime that we play, everybody's trying to dethrone us. I don't know if everyone really understands that. Once everyone, one through 13, understands that we won't lose.

What kind of lessons do you take away from this?
I think we see where USA Basketball's going to be safe as far as seeing the development of some of the younger players. Some younger players did step up and play. But you also see how valuable our veterans are in playing in games like this. We're missing Sue Bird, we're missing Diana Taurasi and of course Lisa Leslie. We've got our work cut out for us. It's a wake up call for us, but it's not doomsday for us.

ALANA BEARD, Washington Mystics
You've been here for all three spring training segments. Obviously this isn't the way you wanted to end the trip, but what can you take away from this loss that will help going forward?
That everyone is going to have to work, that's a lesson we have to take away from this. We can't step out on the court nonchalantly like we did today. We have to be prepared every single time. If anything we have to remember how it felt walking away from this game.

How was Australia able to take that lead in the third quarter?
They kept hitting the threes. They hit some big threes in the third quarter. It was miscommunication on our part on the defense, there were things that we didn't do, there was a loss of focus in that aspect. But we were a little shaky the entire game.

CANDACE PARKER, Tennessee / Naperville, Ill.
What happened in the second half?
I think we were off on defense. You can't trade twos for threes. They hit six threes in the third quarter and two threes in the last minute. We can't do that.

What do you take away from a loss like this?
Motivation. We have to know that teams are going to come after us every night. We're defending a gold medal and we have to do that every time we step out on the court because we have USA across our chest and we're going to get all the teams' best efforts.

You played pretty well overall over these five games, are you pleased with that? Do you think you made a case for yourself for a spot on this team?
I hope so. It would be an honor to represent our country and play for USA Basketball. I take away from this experience a lot of different things. I learned from a lot of great veterans about the game of basketball.

KATIE SMITH, Detroit Shock
What happened in the third quarter that allowed Australia to move ahead?
They were a step ahead. Our help, we didn't help at the right time, didn't communicate on picks. They were able to move the ball and find the open person and knock down shots. With a night that we had offensively, we didn't shoot the ball as well as we would have liked, but still we have to go down and get the job done on the defensive end. They picked us apart a little bit and on top of that they knocked down a lot of buckets.

Australia got into a zone defense in the second half and shut you down - you shot 4-of-17 in the third quarter:
Yeah, obviously we didn't help ourselves either. Like I said though, we didn't help ourselves offensively by not shooting the ball well for the most part. We still could have gotten that victory if we locked it down and became focused on who we were playing, what we needed to take away, who we can't help off of, we just didn't do a very good job across the board the whole game.

You've played USA Basketball a number of years and haven't had very many losses. How do you learn from those losses?
I think you just have to remember how it feels. You have to remember that when you step out on the floor, no matter when, no matter where, no matter who's on the team, it is a gold medal game. Bottom line. Every time we step on the court it's the gold medal game. I don't think we always approach it like that, but we need to. We need to understand that we have a target on our backs. That's just the way life is. That's just the way we want it because we want to be on top. We have to come in every night with that hunger to get the job done and do those little things. All these other teams, the edge is there because they haven't won it and we need to find that edge every game.

What does this say about the fact that we really need to have a group of players together for a longer period of time? Australia has been together five weeks and this group had five practices before starting tournament play in Australia.
There has to be some kind of continuity, whether it's chunks of time here or there or whatnot. We need to spend time together, we need to have progress, we need to be able to build on things. It is tough, but you have to make it work. This year, with the timing and everything, this is what we've got and you have to make it work with what you've got. I think we have the ability to get it done, it's just getting tougher and tougher. I just hope that the time we get, we come together and get it done mentally and physically. We need to focus and find a way to get it done. I totally believe that, even with a couple weeks, this team, we're still the best in the world.

Anne Donovan was saying that you need to pass the word on how this loss made you feel to the other players in the system, what are you going to tell them?
Just let them know that we need them and to have that edge to understand that it's not going to be easy. Just like it has been in the past, it's going to be tough. We need to let them know that we really have to be on our toes and to understand that (the opponents) are going to give us their best shot. With them not being here, not feeling this, not going through all three of the tours, playing in hostile arenas, you kind of forget a little bit about the atmosphere and what it's going to be like, the officiating, everything. But when things aren't going your way you still have to find a way to get it done. So just a reminder of how it feels and what it's going to be like. We'll let them know. I'm sure they're going to see this and be excited and ready to roll when the time comes.

TINA THOMPSON, Houston Comets
You played well over the past five games, does that help take away the sting of the loss?
You have expectations, you know? You always expect to come out and play hard and do your best. I think from that perspective it's a good deal. But it would have been a good feeling had we finished it out on a good note todaya.

Right now I could care less how I played. Maybe that's not the right choice of words, but I'm sick to my stomach right now actually. In my opinion we don't lose and we lost today. For me, this whole trip has been a failure. Hopefully my attitude will be a lot better tomorrow, but right now this sucks.

What happened in the second half?
We just had some really big breakdowns defensively and they hit some big shots. It probably would have been a little different if it was players who we don't expect to hit those shots, but we had a couple of mental breakdowns. Lauren (Jackson) shot some big 3-pointers, same with (Belinda) Snell. We know that they're capable of that. Mentally that's something that should always be in the back of our minds, because you know what they can do. We've played them several times and our coaching staff talked about those guys and not letting them get into their comfort zones. We did that, and that's not supposed to happen.

What lessons can you take away from this?
The feeling, I don't ever want to have this feeling again. It's a good thing that it's now and not in September or not in ‘08. For the younger players, as well as for the players who have been here before like Katie (Smith) and Swin (Cash), we have a lot to take back to the rest of the gang. We have to let them know what this feeling felt like and how excited other countries are. We know it, but it's rare that we see it and we saw it today. Having a picture of it is one thing, but experiencing it is a whole other thing.

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