Additional Quotes >> France 76, USA 72
USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)
On tonight’s game:
We talked to the players about how difficult all this is going to be. Sometimes maybe we think this is going to be easy, but it’s not going to be easy. It’s not easy to beat a really good team on their home floor if you don’t shoot the ball well, if you don’t make shots. The way we started in the first quarter, I thought we started the right way. Our defense was really good. Our offense was going. And then when we got into a little bit of a lull, France and Sandrine (Gruda) especially, they just made shots. They deserved to win tonight. No question about that.
It seemed that you didn’t have an answer for Sandrine Gruda. Is that an indication of weakness in the post or was it a broader problem because of her range?
We talked a little bit about this. When someone’s a really good offensive player you’re going to have a hard time guarding them once they get going; that’s why they’re on the national team. I don’t know that you have one player that’s going to be able to stop somebody like that.
We made a lot of mistakes and she took advantage of every mistake that we made. So, it wasn’t that we didn’t have one player that could guard her, it’s that whoever we rotated on, we just made a bunch of mistakes defensively. You could say that we haven’t been together very long, we haven’t practiced much and blah, blah, blah, blah. The bottom line is that we made a lot of mistakes and she took advantage of them.
Can you expand on the mistakes the team made?
It wasn’t anything that was very complicated that they were doing. She’s very, very good at taking advantage of when she screens, of what her man was doing. So, I think we stayed with the ball handler too long and didn’t get back to her on time. We didn’t rotate over when we were actually going to trap. We just did things that she recognized right away and took advantage of it. We’ll go back, look at the film and make some adjustments. But again, I don’t think we put enough pressure on them and she had a great night, as did the rest of the team. They made shots. They made a lot of shots in the second half; a lot of tough shots too.
On the shooting of Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi:
You have two of the best players in the WNBA and they were 4-for-23 today.
It must be difficult to have so much talent to choose from, but not to know what your line-up is going to be.
Yeah, we don’t know. And then by the time we’re playing in Istanbul we will know. We’ll have the opportunity to practice a little bit and we’ll have a better idea of … we’ve been trying to accommodate 15 players over here and that’s not easy to do. So, the eight or nine player rotation hasn’t gotten enough work together yet. They haven’t played enough minutes together to really feel like a unit.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
What’s the morale right now? We’re good. I mean, I think in my experience every loss has been a good thing. It’s kind of woken us up and showed us some things that we need to work on. Usually, it plays out to our favor. I can think of literally every time I’ve lost in this USA jersey, and it’s helped us, so that’s how we are looking at it. That’s why you play these games leading up to a competition, to see what you need to work on. And we definitely found out some things.
The USA had no answer for Sandrine Gruda. Does that point to problems for the USA in the post?
Sandrine (Gruda), she has a lot of strengths, and the problem with today’s game was we let her play to her strengths. I don’t think she scored very much in the post. I don’t think it’s a post player thing. She set a lot of pick-and-rolls and popped. She flared out for jump shots. A lot of it was on the perimeter, and we just need to guard those things better. So, like I said, that’s a team defense thing, and it showed us what we need to work on.
Is it tough to get into a flow when the committee is still trying to look at players?
Yeah, I mean, hey that’s the give and take with these ‘friendly games.’ For us, we haven’t been together very long. That’s always the situation, though, and yeah, I think the committee and the coaches are trying to see some players, see what they do in certain situations, as well as getting some chemistry flowing for those that are going to go on to Turkey. So, it’s tough, but it is what it is. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to France. They played very, very well. We had a chance early on to really put them away, but they never quit, and they kept at us, and they deserve this win.
What will you take away from this going into the Worlds?
Well, first and foremost, is just because we have this jersey on that says USA, doesn’t mean we step on the floor and win automatically. And if anything, it means that other teams are going to play their best against us, and we can never have a lull. We can never take a break. Not one possession, not one minute, nothing. So that’s the first lesson, and secondly, like I said, I think small things, X’s and O’s. Things that are in our control. We realize now what we need to tighten up, and I’m pretty confident that we are going to do that.
Were you expecting such a tough game?
Actually, to be honest, yeah. You look at their game against Australia yesterday. I know if I was on Team France, I wouldn’t be happy with that performance. So, you knew they were going to bounce back. You knew they were going to have the crowd behind them. Did I think we were going to lose? Not necessarily, but that is what you play the game for. That’s basketball – anything can happen.
Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
Were you surprised by the French team tonight?
No. I’m not surprised at all. I play overseas and I’ve played against these girls. The way they came out, their tenacity, their fans were behind them and they just didn’t let up. As far as for us, an experience isn’t what happens to you, it’s what you do with it. It’s all about how we respond to the coaching staff, to the film that we watch, especially on ourselves, individually. We’re going to see them again. It’s all about how we respond.
On the inside battle against France:
It was a tough battle. But we’re not going to use that as an excuse. We’re professional athletes. We’re supposed to come out a certain way with a certain poise and address what the issue is. They dominated inside, especially with Sandrine Gruda. They made late shots. Emilie Gomis was driving and penetrating and finishing around the rim. So all of that we have to address.
How would you address that?
By responding. By playing harder. By listening to the coaching staff. Whatever the different schemes will be along the way, we’ll clean that up.
What can you take away from this game?
A lot of these girls here, they’ve never experienced that. You come in and think that you have USA on your chest and that’s going to win the game for you. That was an example tonight. We have to come out with more poise, more energy, especially in the second half. The first quarter we came out hard. We just have to sustain that and remain consistent with that.
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
On the game: It’s one of those things where it’s not devastating. Not because it doesn’t count, but because it helps us get better. These games prepare us for the World Championship. We don’t want to just have easy wins. So, this is great for us.
Are there some things you already can see the team needs to improve? Definitely defense and staying focused for 40 minutes. And offensively we struggled a little bit, so we will figure it out.
On the second half:
I just think that some of our shots didn’t fall in the second half, and they hit shots. So, we’ll adjust.
Odyssey Sims (Tulsa Shock)
On the game:
It’s a lesson learned. I think we came out with firepower in the first half, and kind of let up in the second half. We didn’t play coming out, zero-zero. We played it like, ‘Oh, we are going to win.’ We underestimated them a little bit, and they made us pay for it. In the second half they really hit some big shots, and we looked bad on the defensive end.
Can this loss help the team?
This is definitely a learning experience. I would rather have it happen early than when it counts. We’ll go back and watch film. Luckily, we have a little time to really break it down and figure out what went wrong. I think we just need a little more energy and a little more spark. It happened at the right time. If we play them again, then we will do a better defensive job on (Sandrine) Gruda. She was the glue to their offense. She really kept them going. She wasn’t really aggressive in the fourth, but they played off of her.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On the game:
We did some good things, obviously not for long enough stretches. And France played really well. They made plays. In the second half, they made us work on the other end, and they made big shots and we didn’t.
Can this loss help the team?
You never want to lose, but it’s the way you react to them that’s important, and I think we learned some things about ourselves – some good things and some things we have to clean up.
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
On the game:
I think just being up how we were in the first quarter, first half, you can’t let up. That’s the big thing, sticking with it. And they made a lot of shots in the second half. Both second halves of the last two games, we’ve gotten beat. So, we have to keep working hard, keep playing hard and keep playing together.
What’s the focus now?
We will watch the video, for sure, and see where we can get better. We will keep working at it, and keep playing hard.
What’s the mood of the team?
I think it’s a good lesson for us to understand you have to keep playing. Every team is really, really good. France is a great team, so we give them a lot of credit. All you can do is stay positive, and keep moving forward and try to get better for the next game, and that’s what we are going to do.