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Additional Quotes >> USA 76, Czech Republic 41

  • Date:
    Sep 23, 2014

Prague, Czech Republic

USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)

What is your recollection of playing in the Czech Republic from the 2010 FIBA World Championship?

I remember how difficult it was … Ostrava was very difficult; Karlovy Vary was very difficult. The teams were really, really good. And I remember how the Czech team surprised everybody with some of the teams that they beat in getting to the final against us and then played great in the final against us. But, a lot of those same players were on the 19-and-under World Championship team that we lost to in Brno in 2001. So, I know all those players, and I’ve had many opportunities to come here. I love this country. I love the people here, and I wish they had the World Championships here every year.

Are you happy to close out the exhibition schedule, especially with the way the team played in the second half?

The way the game against France unfolded, our players were really disappointed. They know that they are better than to let a game get away like that one got away from us. We were so much better defensively tonight, even though the Czech team is much younger. And we shot the ball a little better. We played really well on defense, so I think it was a perfect way to end. It was a real confidence booster for our guys going over to Turkey.

What did you tell the team at halftime?

We went in at halftime, and we talked a little bit about the seven or eight layups that we missed in the first half. We were up 10, and it should have been at least 20. And if you are not careful, that’s kind of demoralizing, so we talked about finishing around the basket. We talked about rebounding the ball more. I just thought we had a really good flow in the second half, and we got great contributions from everybody. That was the best part. It wasn’t like it was one person, but especially Nneka (Ogwumike), Angel (McCoughtry) and Lindsay (Whalen); and Tina (Charles) was great all game. I think this was by far the best she’s played since we’ve been here on this exhibition tour. I’m happy for her, but as I said, Nneka, Lindsay and Angel were just fabulous off the bench.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)

Is it good to head to Istanbul after a game like this?

Each game we’ve played on this pre-tournament tour has been good for us, because we’ve kind of seen different things in each game, had to play against different styles and adjust. We obviously took a loss, but you learn a lot from games like that, and it was really good for us to bounce back and have a good performance.

What did coach talk about at halftime?

I think we missed a lot of easy shots in the first half, and that’s really what he addressed. We ran good offense, and we got good looks. And to be honest, and this is no disrespect to the Czech team, we probably could have been up by that much in the first half had we made shots. So, we just talked about that, to really focus and make layups. We started to turn them over, and that turned into offense for us.

You’re heading into your fourth FIBA World Championship. Can you talk about this USA’s short training period?

In my experience, you don’t get a lot of training time. It’s actually been more than usual for most of us. Obviously, for the players on teams that were in the WNBA Finals, that wasn’t the case for them, but I think it has been good. We’ve steadily gotten better and better, and the games that we did play, we saw a lot. And to finish on this high note is great heading into the Worlds. We know what we have to do, and now it’s time to truly focus and do it.

Tina Charles (New York Liberty)

On the game:

I think Czech played good, coming in at the start. They played hard and really aggressive. We were able just respond, play our game, execute plays that coach just put in, and everybody played within themselves, what we are all good at and known for individually.

Could this be your best game?

God willing we have six more games to play in the World Championship, so we are just going to take it one game at a time and I’m sure we are just going to continue to build on this.

How as the atmosphere?

It was great. I’ve been to Prague a couple of times. I know Lindsay Whalen played her for five years. The people, the fans are great. It was really a warm welcome. It was a great crowd, a great turnout, so we really appreciate that.

On her and Nneka’s performance:

Everybody was able to play individually within themselves and what we are known for. Nneka crashing the boards and finishing around the basket. Me, just trying to finish in the lane as much as I could, getting my man deep in the paint. So, just doing that, and defensively trying to be there in help. I think that plays a big role. There is no defensive three-second call. In the WNBA we have that, so it’s kind of hard to be in help for your teammates.

Is the team ready for the World Championship?

I think there are some things we need to tweak, for sure, but we definitely are going to be able to build on this win. We will be able to have a great mindset after that France game and leave for Turkey with something to feel good about.

Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)

On the USA’s rebounding:

Coach told us that we were outrebounded when we were in Paris. We managed to slide by in a couple of those games without being outrebounded, but it’s definitely a main focus for us, because the more possessions we have, the more opportunities we have to score.

On the USA’s large lineup with yourself, Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart:

I think one huge strength is always versatility. We have people that can go inside and out, we have big men that can be on the perimeter. People can score from all over the place, so I think it’s really great for us to utilize everyone’s strengths, inside and out, and I look forward to mixing up the matchups in every game that we play.

After traveling and playing two games in three days, how do you feel?

It’s nothing we aren’t used to. It’s like the WNBA. We are used to it, so I think everyone is just taking it day-by-day, and we are keeping each other up. We are not letting the energy go down. We want to come aggressively and hard, whether it’s practice or a game day. Even when we travel – keep a positive attitude and let people see the USA team that we are.

On Czech Republic:

They are good, definitely physical. They have a lot of big players, and they have a few shooters on the outside, so I’m glad that we were able to come out here and get another game in before we head to Istanbul.

Do you think the team put together the 40 minutes you were looking for?

I think we did a better job this game than obviously in the previous game (against France). We played pretty well against Australia, too, and China we had three good quarters. So, I think today was more representative of what we want to do defensively. We limited them to 23 points in the first half, and then they couldn’t double it in the second. So, I think definitely starting with defense, because obviously, we are not making a lot of shots. There were a lot of missed shots – open shots, but just not going in. And for us to rely on our defense is something that we want to put together for four quarters.

Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)

On the game:

We played really well. It was a lot of fun. We played great defense. I feel like tonight just felt really good. We’ve been working really hard, and the other night in France (when we lost) was disappointing for us. Tonight, it felt like we turned the corner in the second half. We were able to play off our defense and really run. Everybody did their thing. Everybody played really well. The starters started it off, and the second group, we just tried to come in there and bring energy and do what we could. I thought we had a really nice flow.

Was it good to head to Istanbul after a game like this?

Tonight was a great feeling for us, and now we have a couple of days to prepare for our first game. So, we needed this tonight. It was nice to have a game within 48 hours of a loss – get here, have shoot around this morning, play, and keep this thing rolling. 

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