Additional Quotes >> USA 94, France 72
USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)
On tonight’s game
When you come out and shoot the ball the way we shot it in the first half, it’s kind of difficult for the other team to kind of keep pace. We just have so many good offensive players. They’re a very physical team and they’re a very good defensive team, and they rely on their defense to keep them in games. But, the way we started the game and the way Tina (Charles) and Brittney (Griner) kind of set the tone early on. We were able to get them established in the lane. Then we just played off of that. We have a really good group. The first group is really solid. They’ve played together a lot. Then the second group comes in and I think that’s where we have an advantage, when we sub and they sub, we feel like we have an advantage. That second group was great. Overall, we beat a really good team tonight and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.
On playing Australia in the semifinals:
Obviously the U.S. and Australia have a history. It used to be where Russia was the team that everyone felt like was the team that everyone thought they had to work to beat. Australia’s come so far in the past few Olympics, since 2000, since the Olympics were in Sydney. It’s a shame they lost their big kid. It seems like the tables have been reversed. They lost Liz (Cambage) and we added Brittney (Griner). I thought it was going to be a great match-up between the two of them.
But, they’ve changed as a team pretty quickly. We saw them right after Liz got hurt and they didn’t look so good in France. Now when you watch them, every game they’re getting better and better and better. Guys who were maybe kind of a role player before Liz got hurt are really playing, and really doing a lot. This is the semifinals of the World Championship. It’s supposed to be a really hard game and it’s going to be.
The USA team lost to France (76-72) on Sept. 21. What was the difference in the two games?
I would say Brittney Griner (laughs). You know, Brittney changes games, obviously. But, our entire team played much better than we played in Paris. In Paris we were still trying to find out who was going home, who was staying. We were still trying to put our team together. And we really didn’t get a lot of really good offensive production. And we knew why. We knew we were going to fix it. But, sometimes games like that happen and you can either use it as a bad motivator for your team or you can use it as a good one. We watched film of that game and we wanted our players to know exactly what we were trying to do that game and what we were going to try to do tonight. There were never any lingering effects of that loss at all. We knew they were a good team when we played them in Paris and we knew they were going to be very good tonight.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
On pounding the ball inside:
That was the plan. Obviously we have tremendous athleticism, so we just really want to get stops on the defensive end, run as fast as we can and get the ball inside. That was really one of the main things that we talked about.
On the USA’s shooting:
We were just able to generate really good shots, and we have enough players, obviously, on this team, that if you get them their looks, they are probably going to make them. And you think about it, if you look at that game, I mean I didn’t know the percentage, (someone) just told me, I was surprised, but everybody took what would be considered their shot. And we just have people who have the ability to knock them in.
How different was it having Brittney Griner this time against France?
Her presence is huge, you know. It allows us to do things on defense that you normally can’t do, be a little more aggressive. We try to keep her under that basket as much as possible. And then offensively, she’s a go-to, a presence down there. She really set the tone. They told her, get two feet in the lane, post up, and she was able to get fouled early on. She was able to score early on, and it really set the tone for everybody.
On playing Australia tomorrow: It’s going to be a tough game. I understand that everyone is going to look at their team, outsiders looking in, and not see the names that they are used to seeing. But, we played against them, and they are tough and they play very well together. Even though they might not have Lauren Jackson and Elizabeth Cambage and whatever, they have an identity within themselves, and they really play to it. And they still have Penny Taylor, and they still have Belinda Snell and they still have people, Erin Phillips, who have played many years and have been successful, so you cannot overlook them at all. Tomorrow’s game is going to be tough.
Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
Can you talk about you and Brittney Griner getting the USA off to that incredible start?
She’s just a special, unique player. She’s a big target. I really enjoy playing alongside of her. I don’t think I’ll ever have another opportunity to play with somebody of her talent, her skills and just the way she approaches the game, just knowing how young she is and what she can do to impact the game. So, it’s a lot of fun to lob the ball up there, knowing she is the only one who can get it.
What about your performance?
I was just waiting for the game to come to me. Diana (Taurasi) had great passes to me off of pick-and-rolls, and just little things like that. So, I was just trying to capitalize on that.
On the USA’s shooting (41-58 FGs, 70.7 percent):
That’s phenomenal. We really take pride in representing the USA. I think Seimone (Augustus) did a great job, (Candice) Dupree coming off the bench, and Lindsay (Whalen), especially. She definitely sets the tone for that second group, and Angel (McCoughtry) as well.
On matching up against Sandrine Gruda defensively:
Just knowing that it’s a hard task, but knowing that I can definitely approach it and take ownership of it. I want to be that player that the coaching staff can depend on when it comes to having to make a defensive stop against a really good post player like Sandrine Gruda. She did a phenomenal job on us the first time. We owed France one, so I just wanted to handle that.
What did coach say at halftime?
Just knowing that this is a second-half group as far a France goes. They can come back, don’t let up. You saw spurts where they were making a whole bunch of shots at the end, so just keeping our focus.
I’m looking forward to it. It was a great game when we played them in London. They don’t have Elizabeth Cambage, who is a big asset to them, as Brittney Griner is for us, but they are going to come out, compete and play hard. We respect every team that we play.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
On the USA pounding the ball inside.
Whatever they give us, we want to take. And they were giving us the inside game, so we pounded it in. The guards did a great job of finding us, and we were able to put points up there on the board.
On her game:
(I was) just letting it come to me, whatever the defense gave me. I didn’t want to force anything, or you start to make a lot of shots and you start doing crazy things. I just wanted to let it come to me naturally. I need to make those damn free throws, though. Six of them I missed.
(Reporter) I wasn’t going to bring that up:
I’ll bring it up. I needed to make those. I haven’t missed that many free throws since we lost to UConn when I was at Baylor.
You weren’t there when the USA lost to France in exhibition, but was that a factor tonight?
We weren’t really playing for revenge; we were playing for gold. So, you know, we have to beat them, and of course it’s always in the back of our mind. If somebody beats you, you are going to try to give your best shot again, so that’s what we did.
Was it fun out there?
We just wanted to get the ball in the right person’s hands, whoever was open, and it was fun. That type of basketball is fun, especially when you are putting up those points and keeping the other team from scoring. That’s always fun.
You’re new to the USA-Australia rivalry, but it’s a big game tomorrow:
I’ve definitely heard (about the rivalry), and I’m looking forward to (it). I live for those type of games. I mean, any basketball player lives for those rival games, those games where it’s not just handed to you. Where you got to fight for it.
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
What was the difference in this game?
Just being aggressive, getting the ball inside. I thought Brittney (Griner) did a great job for us, just being tough, finishing around the rim, getting to the free throw line, on the ball a little bit, running high-low. I thought our posts did a great job of finding each other, and then when we got those stops, we were running. That’s when we’re at our best, when we rebound and get out and run. The way we moved the ball, for the most part, was one of the better games for us I think, just with the assists we had. France is a tough team. They run, we tried to slow the pressure down a little bit by picking them up full court, slowing them down a little bit. I thought overall our connectedness was as good as it’s been in awhile, in order to slow it down.
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
On the USA’s shooting:
I thought we really moved the ball well. I think that was first and foremost. It’s always a key for us. We got some easy looks just by penetrating and kicking and finding each other. I thought that we shared the ball well. Anytime we do that and make extra (passes), good things happen, so it was definitely a fun game to play tonight.
Do you think the team stayed focused throughout the win?
Yeah, I did. There is going to be, obviously, ups and downs in the game, and you just have to mange those and stay focused and make sure that you’re staying focused and staying ready for the full 40 minutes. I thought the times we did have little lapses, we picked it up in a hurry after that, and we were able to make some plays.
On the USA’s defense:
Having seen these guys two weeks ago, they beat us, so coming out here and getting that win tonight was huge for us, and we just want to come out and play as well as possible and do our thing, and it all started with defense and rebounding. That’s what it always starts with for us. Tonight that was even more of a key.
Are you excited to reach the semifinals?
Yeah, of course. Another game tomorrow, so we’ve got to refocus and be ready to go. It’s always one step at a time. Now, we are on to the semis, and we are all very happy about that, and we’ll start getting ready for the next game.
They are a great team. They make you work for everything. They are going to drive. They are going to play physical. They are going to be aggressive. So, we have to be ready right from the start, and the way we started and did those things tonight, we’ll be ready for the game.