USA 76, France 41

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September 17, 2006 • Barueri, Brazil
Story || Box Score || Photos

USA head coach ANNE DONOVAN, Seattle Storm
Opening Comments:
In the third quarter I thought we came out and put the hammer down. We’ve been talking about doing that, I thought we did a good job against Cuba in the second half last night, and then tonight we did the same thing. Kudos to this team that continues to get better each day, which is our goal.

Do you think that France, in the first half, was one of the toughest teams you’ve faced since the World Championship began?
I would say France is stronger defensively than anyone else we’ve seen. They mix it up a little bit with the full-court pressure, the trapping, full-court man-to-man. So they kept the pressure on our point guard bringing the ball up. I thought they did a great job defensively. They forced a lot of turnovers, which has been our focus, not to turn the ball over. And the other thing we talked about, our staff talked about before the game, is that France gets 10 more shots a game than their opponents and they do that because they’re such a good defensive team. Again tonight, they got 11 more shots than we did. They continue to create opportunities for themselves and put themselves in a nice position.

On the team’s defense allowing just two points in the final 12:48 of the game:
I give a lot of credit to this team because it’s not easy to come into training camp after a WNBA season. With the exception of (collegian) Candace Parker, you’ve got all WNBA players working hard on defense. That was our goal. Having been in Athens this group understood that we could probably sustain offensively, but we really needed to pick it up defensively from what we did in Athens. They’re committed to that. We’re looking closely at what other teams are doing quarter by quarter and taking note in the fourth quarter today we just allowed two points. I think 17 points is what Cuba had in the second half yesterday and 14 points were scored today in the second half. This team is really getting after it at that end of the floor and it speaks a lot to the kind of players they are. They’re not just all-star, superstar players, but they’re committed to the little things, the things that typically your all-stars want to do and that is defend.

On the Czech Republic, the USA’s next opponent in second round play:
D’s (Diana Taurasi) right. Especially the third game in three days, it’s always the toughest game from a mental standpoint to get out and get after it, concentrate on not making mental mistakes. I’m looking forward to this match-up. Czech is obviously a great team, beating Russia today. They’re just solid at every position, they have a great point guard that runs their show, so we’re going to have to contain her. Like Diana said, there are many threats on that team, we’ll have to play really solid. I’d like to see us get out and run a little bit more. I thought France did a great job taking away some of our transition so we’re going to have to get back to that pace tomorrow, that’s when we’re at our best.

Are you satisfied with the play of Michelle Snow and Cheryl Ford or are you worried about the absence of Yolanda Griffith and Lisa Leslie? You don’t seem to have what you need with those players.
I don’t know if I agree with that. Snow last night against Cuba played 12 minutes and had nine rebounds. That’s what we need. We need her to rebound the basketball and that’s why she’s on this team. Cheryl Ford is still ... I mean, give this girl some credit. She’s had no training (with this team) at all. She missed the six weeks in the spring, came right out of a WNBA championship and joined this team. Here we are, (six) days later where she’s still trying to pick things up as she goes. Tina (Thompson) and DeLisha (Milton-Jones) are great for us, they start us off in the right way. Candace Parker has been huge, as you know, with a big role on this team. And Snow and Cheryl are doing exactly what they need to do. They take great pride in making sure that there isn’t a hole, that there’s no more void or weakness in our post game in the absence of Lisa or Yolanda. These five post players have done a great job filling it in and changing the style that we play.


Comments on the game:
They came out really aggressive both offensively and defensively, I think they did a good job. I think we just wore them down on the defensive end and it opened things up offensively particularly in the second half.

France shot just 22 percent for the game and seemed to get frustrated:
Like I said, I think we did a great job of playing defense. Our offense wasn't exactly what we wanted, not exactly what you've seen in past games, but our defense really kept us in this game and kept us going and then in the second half ... two points in the fourth quarter, that says it all right there.

What do you know about your next opponent the Czech Republic, have you seen them?
I've seen them a little bit. I remember them from the Olympics, it's virtually the same team, they're very good. They have a lot of players who are tall and who can shoot the ball and do a lot of good things, so it's going to be a good game. And they're pretty confident, they've had some good wins over a lot good teams.


The game was a defensive battle where you had to play them tough
we definitely came into the game with that mindset, that it was going to be a physical game and that we were going to have to play better defensively and offensively. We started the game off really tough and built on it a little by little. The second half was probably the best that we've had thus far. I know everybody that played, starters, players off the bench, everybody, as a whole we locked into our system. The only thing we need to work on still is offensive rebounding and turnovers.

Next is Czech Republic and they're playing very well:
Yeah, they're doing really well. I think the one thing about the Czech Republic is that they are so methodical, so text book. I know from playing with Zuzaba Klimesova she makes everything look so easy because it is so text book. As a team we have to come out and do the same things we did tonight, play really well in the first quarter to get us started off with a bang and then just keep it moving.

Does it help to have played France and Russia who play a similar style?
They all, in a way, play the same kind of system. I think having the experience against France going into the Czech Republic tomorrow will help. From also watching them play before I think we have a better feeling about them and I know our coaches will do a great job preparing us.


Was the game what you expected?
It was, they made us play defense for the entire shot clock and they really were kicking our butts in the first half on the offensive boards. In the second half we had to make that effort to block them out and guards had to come in and help us rebound because the rebounds were coming long.

We matched the intensity they brought. They were really trying to pressure us for 94 feet and really tried to disrupt our offense in the half court, but we remained calm, our experience came into play and we were able to expand the lead and we just took the game over at that point.

Do you think the USA Depth wore France down?
Most definitely. When we come into the game, no matter who it is, whether it is a guard or a post, we want them out and running and that can break a team's back. When you're playing good hard defense and then someone with fresh legs comes in and gets an easy two, and it's like 'dang.'


Opening comments:
I thought it was a really good game for us. Obviously France has been playing really good basketball, but we came out in the first quarter and dictated the tempo from the get-go, which is what we wanted to do. France didn’t go away in the second quarter, they played really tough. We put emphasis on that third quarter and I think that’s what put us over the top in the game.

France is a good team. They played well in the first quarter and then stepped it up defensively in the second. At the same time I think we did some things that are uncharacteristic of our team. But we got it back in the third quarter, in the fourth quarter, so it was good.

Was it frustrating having those two early fouls and having to sit through the second quarter?
It’s always frustrating not to be on the court. The beauty of this team is that you have so many great players that you really can put anyone in there. But it is always nicer to be on the court.

On her third-quarter scoring:
Obviously when you’ve been sitting on the bench you want to come in and make a little bit of an impact, but I just got a couple good looks that hit the basket. It ended up working out really well.

On the team’s defense allowing just two points in the final 12:48 of the game:
Coming into this tournament, as a group I think that was our biggest focus in training camp. For two weeks that’s what we’ve worked on. We knew teams coming into the World Championship, like France, could shoot the 3-ball, have great inside play. You have to shut one of them down, if not both. Today we did a pretty good job of helping each other on defense, which is the key. And limiting 3-point shots, I don’t think they made many, and (shutting down) their inside play, which is very strong. The coaches got us prepared with film and a good strategy and I think we put it to work.

On her shooting (23-39 / 59.0 percent from the floor and 12-23 / 52.2 percent from 3-point) through five games:
When you play with a team like this, you get so many great opportunities because you have, one, a great point guard in Sue (Bird) who gives you great looks. Then you’ve got Tina (Thompson) and DeLisha (Milton-Jones), there’s so much focus on them that kind of leaves us with good looks on the outside, they’ve been going in and that’s been good for the team. But offensively, we’re doing a good job of moving the ball and whenever we do that we’re pretty confident in getting a good shot every time down the court. Luckily in the third quarter today I got some good looks and they went in and it got us going a little bit. That’s our strength, a lot of people getting involved.

On the Czech Republic, the USA’s next opponent in second round play:
The Czech team is probably one of the toughest match-ups for anyone in the tournament. They’re so big, they can shoot at any position so it’s going to be a tough match-up for us defensively. Defensively we’re going to have to continue doing what we do and that’s get out on the break and make good decisions. Tomorrow’s going to be a good test for us going into the medal rounds and we want to close it out with a good statement.


Was the game what you expected?
I think so. I think that in the first half we came out really strong, then we just kind of had a little lull there where we were playing at a moderate level and we turned the ball over a couple of time. In the second half it was like a true example of how we are and how we play, defensively we definitely turned it up and turned the ball over less and got into our offensive flow and that's always good. But France came out and played, they played really strong and we figured that. We just want to wear people down and I think from that perspective it was definitely everything that we expected. Teams come out and they definitely give us their best and sometimes it's too much for them because we continue to come off the bench with strong players that are well rested who are playing at the same level so it makes it a lot easier for us.

There's no rest, next is the Czech Republic who is really playing well:
No one is playing bad. Some teams are better than the others or just stronger than the others. The Czech Republic is a tough game but we expect every game from here on out to be tough. We're moving forward toward the medal round and usually the better teams are moving n. We're going to get up for tomorrow just like we did today and like we did in the games before and hope to have the same good effort.


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