USA 119, China 72

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September 12, 2006 • Barueri, Brazil
Story || Box Score || Photos || Press Conference (mp3)

USA head coach ANNE DONOVAN, Seattle Storm
Opening Comments:
For the first game for us, I’m pleased with the results. I thought that we were focusing on defensively, trying to set a standard starting with this game. Defensively we were very focused on that end and I thought we did a very nice job with that for the most part. Moving the ball as well as we did offensively, getting as many people involved in our offense as we did makes us very difficult to guard. So that’s one of our strengths, we utilized that as well.

On tonight’s game:
I was really pleased about a lot of things tonight. We saw the zone, we got to run our motion offense against the zone. We had a bunch of different people playing and everybody contributed. China is a great first game, it’s a good team. I think we made them look poorly tonight by turning the ball over. Defensively that’s been our focus so to force that many turnovers means we’re doing something right.

Do you think that if the two teams played again, China would have an opportunity to close the scoring gap?
I do, we were expecting this to be a very difficult game. We know that China’s worked hard to develop its program, bringing coach (Tom) Maher into that program. We’ve watched China really change in the last two years. We came into this game knowing that we had to be prepared. There’s no doubt that they’re young and they’re going to get better. By the time 2008 rolls around, they’re going to be a very good team, ready to compete at this level. There are a lot of us who are watching them closely and watching the development of these younger players. We understand that they’re going to continue to get better.

On the addition of Katie Smith and Cheryl Ford:
I have to say, in the perimeter, to have Katie Smith coming off our bench, I think all of the coaches are breathing huge sighs of relief. Where we were good, we’re great now in the perimeter. And Cheryl Ford, just her presence in the post, she’s a banger. She left some bruises against China and that’s exactly what we need her to do. Both came in and did a great job not having worked with the team.

Is there any aspect of your team’s game that can be improved upon?
We’ve been working hard on our defensive game and I think it’s something that in the past has let other teams play with us. I think we can score. Generally we have a lot of players on this team who can score. But defensively we’ve focused on that end of the floor and I thought tonight we did a pretty good job. But we still need to focus on that a little bit more to defend without fouling. Overall I’m very pleased.

On what Sheryl Swoopes brings to this team:
Sheryl is a three-time Olympian, so she is the backbone of this team. She’s had some injuries recently, her back, that almost precluded her from being here. She’s been able to recover from that and is still slowly trying to regain her health. But her leadership on this team is very important to what we do. She and Katie Smith, Tina Thompson, DeLisha Milton, are all Olympians who are really going to lead the way for this team. She came off the bench, hit a couple threes right away and really showed us what she’s all about. When it’s game time Sheryl Swoopes is always ready to play.

On Candace Parker’s play in her first major international competition:
Candace made two of our six weeks of training in the spring. We went to Australia, played China there, played Australia there. So that was her first time getting her feet wet at the international level. I thought she did a great job getting her feet wet at that tournament. But this is a different game entirely, the World Championship. In our two exhibition games, once in North Carolina against Australia and against Brazil the other day Candace struggled a little bit. So we were curious about how she was going to step out today. She’s been working hard to try to learn about this level and how she can help us at this level. She’s going to be a big part of what we do coming off the bench. She’s very seasoned, very good offensively and is really working hard on her defense. She’s really going to be a big part of our journey here.

On tomorrow’s game against Nigeria:
I’m hoping for our next step defensively. I hate to keep preaching defense, but you can see that we can score, we have a number of people who can score. As long as we keep playing solid defensively and clean up some of the things we didn’t do very well tonight, we’re going to keep taking the next steps in getting ready for the next eight games.

On tomorrow’s game against Nigeria:
I’m hoping for our next step defensively. I hate to keep preaching defense, but you can see that we can score, we have a number of people who can score. As long as we keep playing solid defensively and clean up some of the things we didn’t do very well tonight, we’re going to keep taking the next steps in getting ready for the next eight games.

Opening Comments:
Just like coach Donovan said, it was really important for us to get out to a good start in this first game and set the tone for the entire tournament. That’s what we were really focused on, letting our defense and our rebounding really be our offense and we did a good job of that today.

On tonight’s game:
It’s exciting to finally get started. Our team has been preparing now for a couple of weeks, we’re kind of sick of beating up on each other. It’s time to take it out on somebody else, unfortunately for China since they were our first game. It feels really good to get out there and set a tone for the entire tournament.

On the team’s cohesiveness, despite never once practicing as a full 12-member team:
I think the best thing about USA Basketball is that at all times everyone’s here for one thing and that’s to win. I think that for Katie and Cheryl to get here today and do what they did on the court to help us out and fit right in is a true testament to that. Everybody just wants to win and do whatever they need to do. That’s what you saw tonight.

Was the 20 points your highest point total in a USA Basketball uniform?
Yeah, probably.

Were you feeling hot tonight?
Yeah! I guess so, luckily they went in.


Opening Comments about the game:
It was a lot of fun. We really adjusted well early and then just let our defense turn into offense.

The depth on this team is impressive isn't it?
Katy Smith says we come at them in waves and we really do because we have a lot of people who can play a lot of different positions so that allows us to run a lot and not get tired.

Are you enjoying this experience, is it fun?
This is a great experience and I'm trying to take in everything. I'm playing along side the best players in the world and I'm trying to absorb everything. I have a great role model in Tina Thompson, I'm just trying mimic what she does.

It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun to just be able to play and relax and take care of business early which we did tonight.


How she felt playing tonight having just arrived in the morning:
I felt decent. In the second half my legs started burning a little bit, I was a tad bit tired. Cheryl (Cheryl Ford who also arrived this morning) did a nice job too. We just needed to get the kinks out and get a sweat going. It was a great, great effort. This team just keeps coming in waves and offensively we looked good, defensively we just got to tightened it up a little bit, but this is a great start for us.

A lot of the USA's offense comes from the defense:
Yeah it does, we have the ability to lock people down and then just run and be able to score. We move the ball well, share the ball and that's hard to guard. When we get the defense tightened up the offense will take care of itself.


Opening Comments:
I really wanted to come out and be focused tonight. We didn't approach the game like we were playing China and we're expected to win. We really wanted to approach this game by focusing on the things we needed to do. The coaches had told us they (China) were a very good team and the score probably doesn't indicate how good of a team they are, but I think a lot of that has to do with how well we played. There were spurts in the game offensively where we didn't move the ball, we didn't do some of the things offensively we wanted to do. Defensively, I don't think our defense was very good tonight. I thought in the first half it was a lot better than it was in the second half, but I think that is typical. You expect that to happen when you have such a big lead at halftime. You come out in the second half and let up a little bit. The games are only going to get tougher from here. We've got to improve on the things we did wrong offensively and defensively if we want to advance to the next round.

How much fun was it tonight to get out and run and get such a team effort?
You know what I love about this team is that we have a mixture of veterans and youth, of players that have been here before and players that haven't been here before. So to be able to get out there and run and gun and just enjoy that style of basketball is a lot of fun for me even though I wasn't able to do it a lot tonight but it's a lot of fun. I think that's probably one of our biggest strengths on this team is our speed and our quickness, our ability to run the floor and our depth.

You hit your first couple of threes:
I probably hadn't told anyone this but I was really nervous about this game. Not even this game, just getting back out there. It's a lot different when you've played then you haven't played in a week, then you practice, but practice just a little bit and its half court. So this is really my first test as far as how my back is feeling, how my leg is feeling since North Carolina. But it felt good. For my first shot to go down it did a lot for me with my confidence. Offensively I'm not really concerned with where I am or what's going on, my concern right now is my defense . I've got to take my game up a whole another level for the next couple of games.


Opening Comments:
It was a good first game to kind of get some confidence as a team. We played well together, there were a lot good things that we saw so we can only carry it over to the next game.

The USA's depth was impressive tonight:
I think that's always been one of our strengths, we can bring a lot of people in who can contribute and not loose anything, not drop the level of play off. Today everyone came off the bench and played very well. Candace, Alana, Seimone, Katy Smith, we're talking about a lot of people who came in and did a lot of good things.

What about the upcoming games?
Nigeria is going to be a tough game and then obviously the Russians are there and the Russians are probably one of the best teams in this tournament no doubt.

Do you focus ahead on getting better each game?
I think as a group we have a challenge of stepping it up each game and learning from what we've done. We have a lot of veterans and I'll think we'll be able to do that.


How good did it feel to get out there and play?
It was awesome. For the last two and half, three weeks we've been beating each other up and beating up the guys and I think this is really good to get out and compete against somebody for something. Although practice everyday is meaningful, now we start our quest. So getting our first game under our belts was awesome. Everybody came out focused and on top of their game. I think initially we were a little too anxious, but that's a good thing and once we settled down everything was rolling.

The depth of this team is impressive and going to be critical:
We were tested today. In the first quarter a couple of us got in foul trouble, myself being one of those, and our young bloods came in and did a great job. Michelle (Snow) and Candace (Parker) came in a set the tone, they were awesome. They were tested and they rose to the occasion so we definitely know our bench is as strong as we think it is because we were challenged today and they came out and got the job done. That's good for us. We know that we can't be in foul trouble being veterans on this team, but the fact of knowing that whatever happens that we have somebody who can have our back is a good feeling.

With the short training period for this team, is this going to be a team that has to get better each game?
Oh we will, I notice it every day. I tell Candace just from the first day in North Carolina until today her rapid improvement, it's been awesome. She's taken every constructive criticism that has been given to her and used it to her advantage and it's showing in her game. The same thing with Michelle as well as Seimone. It's great when you can have players that are well achieved come into this situation and check their egos and everyone work together and not even look back at what they've done as individuals but come in to this situation and do everything we do at home here but in a way that everyone fits and meshes together and knowing that you don't have to carry the load but when called upon you play your best.



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