Russia 75, USA 68

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September 21, 2006 • Sao Paulo, Brazil
Story || Box Score || Photos

USA head coach ANNE DONOVAN, Seattle Storm
Opening Comments:
I want to really congratulate Russia, I thought they played a great game. They came out and shot better than they had all tournament. So this was the time when you have to step up and perform and I thought Russia did a great job with that tonight. Hats off to them. We made valiant runs a couple of times deep into the game, in the fourth quarter twice, but Russia’s lead was too great for us to come back. Congratulations to them, they played a great game.

Did you maybe under estimate Russia?
I don’t think so. Historically we know that Russia plays better when it counts and that’s the medal rounds. Players like Sheryl Swoopes (have seen it) and a lot of our younger players saw it in Athens. So we are well aware that Russia has a different level of play and they just went higher. Again, they shot the ball better than they had come close to shooting all tournament long.

Is this a disappointing loss?
No question it’s disappointing. The United States isn’t use to losing when we get to the medal rounds, so it’ll take a little while for us to bounce back. And we intend to bounce back. We know Brazil is a very good team, they’ve played good basketball here, of course the fans are going to be out. I’m confident that we’re going to find a way to get motivated to go home with a win. We’re not looking to go home with a loss.

Did their post play cause you problems, especially with the absence of a true center like Lisa Leslie or Yolanda Griffith?
There’s no question that their experience and size in the post caused us problems. But we had many shots that hit the rim that we just didn’t finish. I think that (6-8 center Maria) Stepanova did a great job, she was probably in our minds even when she wasn’t close to the ball. I think it effected our shooting down low. And rebounding, we haven’t been outrebounded at all so this is a first for that as well. It was just one of those games, it was not our night.

On the USA’s shooting:
I thought we had good looks, we had many attempts, we had 70 shots, we had more looks than they did. We just didn’t knock the ball down. We did not shoot the ball very well, 27-for-70 is my count, we had good looks we just didn’t convert.

On the pressure defense in the fourth quarter:
Our pressure defense did mix it up, no question. We have a very good pressing team and we have a very good offensive team. When you’re down you need not only to press, but to be able to score points. Our first group is a much better offensive team than they are a pressing team. We went completely to our bench at that point to try to come back and generate some steals.


Comments on the game:
I don't think the USA showed up tonight, we played in spurts and in the fourth quarter when we started pressing I think that's when you saw our true competitive nature come out. But jump ball until the fourth quarter I don't think our competitive nature ever came out. Russia looked liked they owned the basketball court. They were moving freely, passing freely and shooting open shots, while on our end it seemed like we went away from our game plan and we were trying to force the issue and win the game with one bucket instead of trying to chip away at it one basket at a time.

There were points in the game where we had the momentum then the momentum would leave when they would hit a wide open three, or get that offensive rebound and that put back. We put them on the foul line with seven minutes left in the third quarter, you know that's a long time to p;lay defense without fouling, every time we fouled them they went to the foul line We helped them a lot but they also did a lot of things to help themselves win the game so you have to give credit where credit is due.

Next up is the host country Brazil:
This is a huge game. We don't want to leave here without a medal. The destination was the gold medal but we fell short of that and the next best thing to do is get this bronze medal and walk away with a win. Coach Donovan she spoke on this. She said 'we will not leave here without a win, you can't leave on a losing note.' So Saturday we're going to come out fired and we're really going to try that message that we should have sent tonight.

Russia had a 37-33 advantage in rebounding, it was the first time the U.S. didn't win the rebounding, was it a factor in the game?
Most definitely. If we can beat a team like Russia in rebounding that means we'll probably more than like win the game. But for them to control the boards the way they did and shoot the ball as well as they did, then we're in for a long night.

What does this say about women's basketball around the world?
The Czech Republic, the Brazilians, the Russians, everyone is improving. The younger players that are coming up, it's a different breed of basketball now. It's not that old school type of basketball, players are out and running and jumping higher, shooting better, so the game in itself has become a nice thing to see. I'm glad for that evolution because I think fans we'll see that advancement and really be able to appreciate women's basketball.


In the third quarter the team really struggled to score and Russia was getting some transition baskets:
Yeah, when you're not shooting the ball well you got to be able to limit them on the defensive end. They shot the ball extremely well partly because they can knock down shots and partly because we allowed them to penetrate and kick and pick us apart a little bit. We couldn't get anything really going offensively and then on the defense end it just kind of snowballed. We made a run there, but when you're down 20 against a team like this you're going to extend a lot of energy and it's going to take a couple of breaks here and there to get back on top and take the lead. But we've got to give Russia credit, they came out ready to play today and we didn't come out at the jump ready to get it done.

Can you take anything out of rallying back to within five?
Obviously its a pride thing, but it also leaves a taste in you mouth and you say 'why couldn't we do that a little earlier?' Top to bottom, it's all of us, we come in a do our part and do just the little things. If were not scoring, they can't score. Obviously we're never going to give up and this team didn't do that. It's just I wish we had done that throughout the whole game and it might have been a different story.

Now you have the hosts Brazil in the bronze medal game:
This place is going to be wild and not many people cheering for us. Brazil has had a phenomenal tournament, they lost a tough one to Australia, so we have our work cut out for us Saturday. We have to regroup, focus on them and get us hopefully another win but we're going to have to come ready to play or it's going to be a long day. I think we'll bounce back well and it's always nice to have another game after a loss so you can prove yourself again.


Opening comments:
I feel that Russia came out and played exceptionally well. At the start of the game I knew it was going to be a lot different than the first time we played. They played very well, I thought there were spurts in the game where we tried to make runs and we were almost there. But as coach Donovan said, at that point the lead was just too great and we had to fight really hard to try to get back into the game. They shot the ball probably better than anybody else has shot the ball in this tournament. There were times where they might have wanted it a little more than we did. Unfortunately we won’t be playing for the gold medal, but we have to pick our heads up. We have another tough game. We hope to come out and play well against Brazil. It’s going to be tough.

You were on the team in 1994 that lost in the semifinals. How did you get motivated to come back and win the bronze medal and how can you help this team do it?
I don’t even know how I did it then. But I know that I had older players who helped me understand what this is all about, who helped me understand how to come back from such a huge loss. It’s very disappointing and I’m glad that we actually have a day in between to be able to reflect back on what we did wrong. It’s going to be hard, knowing that we’re not going to be playing for the gold medal. I think everybody is disappointed, from the coaching staff, the players, everybody here. But I know that nobody wants to go home without a medal. Even though that’s not going to be gold, not going to be silver, I don’t want to go home empty handed. None of us do. The fact that we’re actually going to be playing Brazil in their country, all the fans who were there tonight booing against us, we know it’s going to be 10 times worse when we play them on Saturday. I hope the fact that we lost this game, the fact that we still have pride, I hope those things combined are enough to get everybody motivated to play on Saturday. Not just show up. I don’t want to just show up and go through the motions. I want to play hard, I want to win, beat Brazil and go home with a medal. Hopefully everybody else will feel the same way.

On playing through booing crowds:
As a player it’s not really something that we hear. I don’t. It’s not something we really pay attention to. For us, we use it as motivation. I think when you are at the top and you’ve been at the top, people want to knock you down and see you fall. I think people feel that pulling for the other team and cheering against us is going to help motivate the other team. On the other hand, I think it just does the opposite, it motivates us. I know as players, and as coaches, we really don’t get caught up in who’s doing what, who’s saying that. We came here to try to play a game, we came here to try and give the fans great basketball. I hope we did that. We’ll see who they cheer for in the Russia-Australia (game). I think who they’ll be rooting for in that game will be very interesting.


Comments on the game:
Russia played well. They made a lot of shots, a lot of plays and when you let them do that it's hard to win the game. But our hats are off to them, we've got to come back now and get the game Saturday.

The USA didn't quit and fought back in the fourth quarter:
I think we showed a lot of heart in that fourth quarter bringing their lead down to single digits. They just played really well tonight, it was their night. Now we have to regroup and get ready for Brazil.

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