USA 63, Czech Republic 50

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September 18, 2006 • Barueri, Brazil
Story || Box Score || Photos

USA head coach ANNE DONOVAN, Seattle Storm
Opening Comments:
It was a difficult game for us. Even in the third and fourth quarters we had to struggle to win the game. I thought it was a great test for us. Many of the games have been won by large margins and a close game is a good thing for us right now.

The Czech Republic played a fantastic game. They’ve been playing very well this tournament. They started off with a loss, but they’ve spent every game getting better so we knew it was going to be a very difficult game for us tonight. I give them a lot of credit, they played very, very well. We managed to play well enough to get a win. This was a good test for us against a very good team and I’m not so sure we won’t meet up with them later on.

On the USA’s second half play:
I think we got more transition going. They got us into a half court game and we weren’t shooting the ball well the first half. Getting Diana to Sue on a couple possessions for easy buckets really helped break it open a little bit. For us to win this game against a very good Czech team, us not shooting ball very well, and being able to overcome the difference on the backboard, we were down 11 on the backboard at halftime. We really had to come out in the second half and focus on that. This was a really good test for us. We were talking about different tests as we go and this is probably one of the best tests we’ve faced. It was a close game, it was a 13-point game, it was the closest game we’ve had here. It was a good test, these challenges are going to make us better in the next round.

The USA team is so strong, do you think you are invincible? Can anyone beat you?
I would love to think that we are invincible, but we know better. We know that on any night any team can defeat us if we’re not playing good basketball. I feel that we’re a very, very good team but there are some very good teams in this tournament. We have to play well to continue to advance.

What is the main focus on your team?
Our best quality is how quick we are and how athletic we are, how much transition we run offensively. We’re very good when we can rebound the basketball and run. That’s when we’re at our best. I thought the Czechs did a great job of slowing us down by controlling the backboard and taking away some of our transition.

On the team’s poor shooting:
This was really good for us, to not shoot the ball so well, to really struggle to try and get offensive flow. In the first half we missed 24 shots and had three offensive rebounds. So our focus in the second half was that if the shots don’t go, let’s get more than one. We were able to not only get shots in the second half, but also get second shots. One big positive tonight was that we took care of the basketball. We only had 12 turnovers and that’s something we’ve been trying to work on.

On Tamika Catchings’ play:
She has been unbelievable. We always talk about her as a staff, it doesn’t come up in the stat sheet all the things she does for this team. She’s after every loose ball, tipped balls, rebound tips, just so much hustle. When she went out early I thought that was a key in why we got off to such a slow start. She’s such a big part of what we do at both ends. When she went out (after getting hit in the face) I think it changed the flow a little bit.

On the USA’s quarterfinal game against Lithuania:
I think Lithuania will be another great match-up for us. They’re similar to the Czechs in that they have a lot of size. Defensively we’ll have to work hard to get our running game back. We were slow today in half court, more than we want to be.

To what can you attribute the USA’s continued success?
The biggest reason for our success is the continuity of our players. We have Sheryl Swoopes, who is a three-time Olympian. Tamika (Catchings) was an Olympian in Athens, (Diana) Taurasi, Bird ... we have so many repeat players and that continuity helps us as our program grows. This team was together the first time in the first game here so the fact that they’ve played together before helps us. Not only do we have continuity, but our players understand what they need to do. They’ve been to the World Championships and the Olympic Games that have been very close. So they understand that the rest of the world is very competitive and they are trying very hard to catch us. So we’re working hard to stay ahead.


It seemed like in the third quarter you were really taking advantage of getting out behind them:
From the get go one of our game plans was to run on them. There were a couple of times when I was able to leak out on them a little bit. Once I saw we had the board I was like 'I'm out of here.' A couple of times because I was contesting the shot I was already out there so I said I might as well keep going and my teammates did a great job finding me, it was like football.

Those layup helped break the game open:
Yeah, when you get easy baskets, uncontested layups, it just energizes everybody. It was definitely because we were able to rebound the ball, but our defense was awesome and to have finishes like that, easy finishes, just helps.

With the shooting off, you had to rely on the defense:
Absolutely. I think we did a great job tonight, especially in the second half of really taking care of the ball, no turnovers, not giving them anything easy. In the first half I think we gave them a lot of easy baskets just because of lack of communication, transition and that type of stuff. For us to respond the way we did in the second half is a good thing.


Opening comments:
I think we came out and played a good game, but the Czech Republic has a great team. I thought they played really good defense, they killed us on the boards in the first half and our goal in the second half was to come out and get back on the rebounds, get back on the hustle plays. I think it was a great game overall.

On Lithuania, the USA’s quarterfinal opponent:
We’ve really been focusing game-by-game on our next game so to be honest I don’t really know that much about Lithuania, except for Jurgita Streimikyte. She was one of my teammates in Indiana. We watched a little bit of their game today. They run, they like to run, they can all shoot, that’s one of the things I picked up on. But other than that I haven’t really paid that much attention to them.

What did the coaches talk about in the locker room at halftime?
I think the biggest thing for us that Anne talked about is rebounding on the offensive end. Our game has been transition, getting the rebounds and going. They were getting offensive board after offensive board and that was one of the things we talked about at halftime - going out, controlling the boards, pushing the ball in transition. Sue got out, Diana found her on some great passes. That’s our game, when we’re running that’s the USA game at our best.

About the game:
We came out and knew it was going to be a hard game, another test. The Czech Republic came out real disciplined and focused on what they were going to do. They killed us on the boards in the first half and one of things Anne talked about going into the second,going into the third quarter was we had to pick it up defensively, we've got to pick up on the board and that's my job. That's my job for this team, to go out and play great defense, get deflections, do whatever I can to disrupt the other team. Once you assign me a job it's one of those things where I'll go out there and do whatever I can to help this team.

It seemed like you were in a zone defensively speaking, do you ever get that feeling?
I get it every night. Since I started focusing on defense I feel like my game has turned around. On the USA Team we have so many scorers it's not like we're looking for another person to go out there and just jack up shots over and over and over again. OF our starting five, all of us can shoot but I willing to step aside and make defense mine. If I score great, if I don't that's great too as long as I can shut down the other players.


This was a game where the U,S. was shooting well and so it had to rely on its defense?
I think it was not a pretty game but we buckled down in the second half and did what we had to do and that was rebound and that was something we talked about. We gave up seven offensive rebounds in the first half and that's unacceptable so we just buckled down and played better to pull it out.

It seemed like the team in the second half tried to get to basket?
The Czech's are a big team, they really are. We knew we had to get to the basket because things weren't falling from the outside, so we just took it to them and put our heads down and went to the basket and got some fouls called.

You've played six games in seven days, you have no game tomorrow, is that a good thing?
Yeah it's a good thing to get a day off, rest our bodies and our mines and then get back it it because you know the next round is you win or you go home.


Opening comments:
It was tough, it was a battle. Obviously. we weren't putting the ball in the hole as easily as we were in prior games, but Czech is a good team Our defense was solid. We picked up our rebounding in the second half, the Czechs really got it going with some extra shots in the first half. I think it was a solid game, you've got win a lot of different ways and tonight we had to win with our defense and we put up enough points to get the W.

The turning point seemed to be when the young generation taking over - Bird, Taurasi, Catchings, Parker, sometimes you, sometimes Tina (Thompson):
Every mix, there was Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain, then it was Swoopes and Leslie, and now you have Diana, Sue and Candace Parker, Seimone (Augustus), you got all these young kids, so that's just the way it goes and for us to be here and be a part of that, just kind of leading our own way whatever it may be and also get out there and do our work. They've been involved in USA Basketball. Yeah, this is how it goes, the old and the new, it's special and it's so much fun to play with them and I know we're going to leave this thing in good hands whenever we're all done.

Do you feel like the elder statesman?
I do, I felt old in the WNBA with my team a little bit. I'm not by any means over the hill but if you look at them your like 'man you guys are babies.' But they've been doing this a while, they've been in USA Basketball since high's fun. They go out there and play and the way we play, the way we move the basketball, the way we run and defend it's a lot of fun to be out there playing.


Opening comments:
They are probably the biggest team here overall. Today we weren't necessarily making shots, but you know we need wins like this - grind it out, a tough opponent before the medal round. I think overall we're excited about what we did in the second half.

It seemed like in the second half the team looked to get to the basket:
That was our focus. Sometimes you fall in love with the jump shot and as a team we're all pretty good shooters so we tend to do that. So we changed our focus a little bit overall as a team.

Did you feel like a quarterback throwing those long bombs to Sue?
You know it's funny we always talk about if we were a football team she's be the receiver and I'd be the quarterback and it kind of worked out that way today.

Coach Donovan has been preaching defense and today it had to be the defense:
I think we did a great job defensively. We had some tough matchups out there and everyone just dug down and really ground it out.


Was this one of those games where the shots just wouldn't fall?
Was it! I think it was two of those games combined. It was one of those games where we weren't hitting the shots we were use to, not to take anything away from the Czech, they're a big team so they kind of forces us a little bit out of our comfort zone. It's going to happen like every now and then., We've shot so well in practically all the game we've played thus far so it happens and I think this was a great time to be tested especially going into the medal round. We persevered and did the little things, the other things you need to get by, not letting them get good shots, forcing them to miss shot, getting easy buckets in transition. I think Sue got four of them that were back breakers for them and shots we really needed to kind keep us on top by double figures.

This was one of those games you had to dig down and play defense and rebound?
We had seen them play quite a bit. They've been playing well, they've only lost one game, they beat Russia who is also a very good team as well, so we knew this was going to be a tough task. Defensively was definitely was out focus and rebounds. In the first half they beat us pretty badly in the second half on the boards but we came back in the second half and redeemed ourselves.


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