USA 90, Lithuania 56

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September 20, 2006 • Sao Paulo, Brazil
Story || Box Score || Photos

USA head coach ANNE DONOVAN, Seattle Storm
Opening Comments:
I was really pleased with our performance tonight. We struggled with the first quarter to start the way we wanted to. But I thought that in the second and third quarter, I think we held them to 11 points in the second and third combined. Defensively we really wanted to get after it and change the tone from the first quarter and I thought we did a great job, good job on the backboards, good job defensively, we got out in transition as much as we wanted to after being slowed down by the Czechs.

On the USA’s next opponent, Russia, in the semifinals:
We watched that game with great interest today and they pulled out a close game. They’re playing much better it seems this morning than they did in the pool play so we’re expecting Russia to step it up a notch. It’s their pattern, it’s what we’ve talked about all along. Once they get to the medal round they seem to take it to a different level. We’re expecting a great match-up tomorrow.

On the USA’s balanced scoring effort:
Our minutes are very balanced, our scoring is very balanced. That’s the beautiful thing about this team, is that they’ve all bought into the fact that we have great depth. We have a lot of players playing and a lot of players able to step up. I think that’s one of our greatest strengths and I think it is no surprise that once again tonight we had a balanced attack.

Three of the four semifinal teams - Australia, Brazil, Russia and the United States - have earned all the Olympic and World Championship medals dating back to the 1996 Olympics. What does it say about the strength of the competition in the semis?
I think it is interesting that we’re back to these four teams again because I really believe the rest of the world is catching up and it’s much more competitive than it has been in the past. And yet there’s still Russia, Australia, the United States and Brazil. It’s no surprise that Brazil is still standing. But I don’t think that it speaks to the fact that there’s just four good teams or three good teams. The Czechs, the Spaniards, France, Lithuania, they’ve all played very well here. There is good balance out there. But once again these teams with the most experience and the most confidence, when it comes to the medal round, find a way to win.

What kind of adjustments did you make in the second quarter?
I think Katie said it a very well a few minutes ago when she said that teams are going to come out really fired up, really strong, and probably give us our best hit early. Our focus is to put them down quickly and try to take away their confidence. It took us a little bit longer this time, it took us into the second quarter. Our adjustments were mostly on the ball screens, we struggled a little bit with how we defended the ball screens. Then we just got after it in the second quarter, I really thought our focus was different. But Lithuania came out and shot the ball really well so you have to give them credit.

Russia has been getting stronger, as has the USA, what kind of adjustments will you have to make when you play them tomorrow night?
I think you’re right. Both teams have improved and I think we can play better than the first time we played Russia. They showed a little bit more heart today, they played a lot harder than they did in the early round. We’ll have to play a lot harder than we did.


Because of some foul trouble you came in early and give the team some positive momentum:
I know my role on this team and that role is to come in and and sort of bring the energy to the defensive end and it was obvious that in the first quarter we couldn't really get it done on the defensive end. In the second quarter along with Sheryl (Swoopes) and Katy (Smith) we came in and did a great job of getting the energy up.

Has it been a hard adjustment to come in off the bench?
No not at all simply because this is really an honor to be on the USA team and I know everyone is out here for one thing it and that's to win the gold. Whatever I have to do to help this team, whether it's sitting on the bench or handling out water bottles, if that's going to help this team win I'm going to do it. It's an honor to be part of this team and I'm having fun.

Coaches preach about be ready because at some point they're going to need you, did it feel like that tonight for you?
It definitely felt like that. This is what we've been practicing for almost a month now. Sue Bird is a great point guard and unfortunately she got into foul trouble tonight and those are the times you have to be ready as a player. You know you may not get the minutes in the earlier game but at times like this I have to be ready and I was ready tonight.


Opening comments:
I think we came out and I believe we were ready but I think the same thing that happened at the other gym, I think we were almost too anxious, had the jitters, a new gym, a new feel, a different team that we hadn't seen yet. They came out there ready to play and they jumped on us and we jumped back.

This is just the beginning for us. We have two more games left and I think coming out against Russia we're not going to be able to have a slow start like we did today, we're going to have to be on our toes and ready to play and I believe we will.

A couple of other U.S. players have said you can throw out the first result versus Russia, what do you think?
Oh yeah, definitely. The one thing we know about Russia is they always come back the second time around more focused and a better team and that's one of things we said after the game the first time we played them was hey, we're going to see a different team. Stepanova played with four fouls and fouled out in the third quarter and that's not going to happen this game so we have to have a different mentality. The coaches have done a great job scouting them and we'll come out tomorrow and we'll be ready.


With your two blocked shots in today's game you surpassed Katrina McClain's USA record for blocked shots in a World Championship, does that mean anything special to you?
It does. I know she was a three-time Olympian and a great player. I think defense throughout my career at Tennessee and in the past with USA Basketball could have been better and it's something I've tried to focus on here at the World Championship and just give our guards confidence that I'm going to be behind them to help them when they get beat. It means a lot. It means my defense is improving and its an honor.

How important will getting out to a good start against Russia be?
I think it will be huge for us to start well against Russia. We did last time and kind of let up. I think we need to put the start against Russia together with our second quarter in this game and we should be just fine.


Opening comments:
I’m pleased about our game today, with our effort from top to bottom. For myself it was nice to finally get my feet under me and to get some minutes and to play with these players after coming in late. For our bench, it was a positive to come into the game and pick up where we somewhat started. Teams are going to give us their best shot and we stood there and took it and then we made our run.

On the semifinal match-up against Russia:
Tomorrow against Russia ... it’s obviously a familiar face that we’ve seen already in this tournament. I expect a different team from them coming into the game. I know we’ll prepare ourselves and be ready to play. We’ll see what happens on the floor.

Three of the four semifinal teams - Australia, Brazil, Russia and the United States - have earned all the Olympic and World Championship medals dating back to the 1996 Olympics. What does it say about the strength of the competition in the semis?
It’s true. I never really thought of it like that. But these teams worldwide in international competition, then you bring them into the WNBA and you have a lot of players who have played in both leagues (EuroLeague & WNBA). I think that the world is pretty equal when it comes down to women’s basketball. There’s a lot of talent out there. These countries definitely have shined. I think it shows because a lot of the players on these teams have been in the States and have played with us and against us for many, many years and we all know each other very well.

On the fatigue factor of playing seven games so far in eight days, with two to go:
I obviously came here late, I was in the final game in the WNBA. But honestly, you have two games left and hopefully they mean the world and going for gold. But we have to get past Russia first. It’s a 40-minute ball game, you’ve been working, all the conditioning and all the basketball we’ve been playing, we can all suck it up for 40 minutes. With the depth that we have we can go in and go hard for spurts. You’re not asked to play for 40 minutes. You just have to go in there, go hard and somebody’s going to come in right behind you and keep it going. All of us, with all the basketball we’ve played, 40 minutes is really a short amount of time to go out there and play hard and try to win a ball game.


Opening comments:
It wasn't pretty but it's a win. We knew coming into the game they were going to try to slow the pace down and make us have more of a half curt offense or half court game instead of our transition game. The first quarter we gave away way to many points and at this point in the tournament and when you get to this round every possession is critical. I think we gave up 26 or 27 points in the first quarter and that's too many. I though in the second and third quarters we came out definitely more aggressive on defense, we buckled down and didn't give them a lot of open looks and played the type of game we wanted to play coming into the game. It wasn't pretty but it's a win, we move on to tomorrow and tomorrow's a different day and it's going to be a lot tougher than today was.

What about playing Russia tomorrow:
The thing about Russia you never know which team is going to show up. In the first round we played them and can't even really feel good about that win because I don't really think they showed up, I think they played well enough to get by and get to the medal round.

What I like about our team as far as the veteran players and younger players, it's my job to make sure every young player understands this is a completely different team than we saw in the first round. It's the medal round and they want to win and I really feel like they're confident enough that they feel like they can beat us. Tomorrow is going to be a completely different game than it was for us. They're tough. They have an inside game with Stepanova, they have an outside game. But if we buckle down on defense and not give them second and third shots and we run the ball, and run the ball, and run the ball, we should definitely win. I think our bench is a lot deeper than their bench, and our strength is our transition game so we can't allow them to take us out of our game and what we want to do and at the same time we have to buckle down on defense and not give them a lot of easy looks.



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