Practice Quotes >> Previewing the USA’s Quarterfinals Game Against France
USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)
Thoughts on playing France:
Obviously they’re a very good team. Their point guard is really good. She’s very smart. Very experienced. And Sandrine Gruda’s playing exceptionally well right now. The game that we played (against) them in Paris, we did some great things and we did a lot of not so great things. I think we’re a different team than we were a week-and-a-half ago. I’m anxious to see what that difference is tomorrow night.
How much do you take from that game going into tomorrow’s game?
If you’re a great team, you have to figure out how to win when two of your best players aren’t making shots. You just can’t say, ‘well, we have an excuse because they didn’t make any shots.’ You still have to find out how to win games, and we had an opportunity to win that game. We didn’t take advantage of it, and they did. They made some big shots in the fourth quarter. I think that’s what good teams do. We gave them an opportunity to win the game and they took advantage of it. Hopefully we will be in a position tomorrow night where we won’t give them the opportunity to win the game.
Does that make you more focused on this game?
I think anytime you play somebody that you’ve lost to, I think there’s an added sense of awareness. But, this team’s been pretty good since we’ve been whole, since our entire team came together. We’ve been pretty focused on what we need to do. That Angola game was a really prime example of that, because we could have come into the game kind of lackadaisical, knowing that they’re the kind of team that’s not nearly as talented as we are. So, it’s a medal game. It’s the quarterfinal game. Regardless of who we would be playing tomorrow night, I think the attention is certainly going to be there.
Would you say Brittney Griner is one of the best centers women’s basketball has ever seen?
Where I come from, you’re defined as the best ever by how much you win, not how many points you score or how many rebounds you get, or whatever. Brittney heard that in college for four years, ‘you’re the best ever, best ever, best ever,’ and they won one national championship. There have been other people that have won, Diana (Taurasi), two, three. And now she’s won her first WNBA championship in just her second year and this is her first opportunity on the world stage to win a World Championship. So, as Brittney’s career moves on and she impacts teams and impacts their ability to win, then we’ll be able to look back and say, ‘Wow.’ But sometimes I think we -- coaches, fans, media, everybody -- we see somebody who’s so unique, who does things that maybe no one else has ever done and we’re quick to jump to, ‘Wow, she’s the greatest ever.’ It’s probably not fair to her. So, I always like to wait and see. And then when they’re finished, you look back and say, ‘Hmm, maybe she was the best ever.’
Who is the most dangerous player on the French team?
Tony Parker (laughing). No, I think they have two players that are very exceptional. Celine (Dumerc) has been around for a long time. She knows the game. She’s very smart, very much in control of her team and they rely on her for so much, and she does so much for her team. Even without scoring, she does so much for her team. And Sandrine (Gruda) might be playing the best basketball I’ve seen her play in a long, long time. She’s very confident. She’s active and she’s doing a lot of things. She’s a very difficult match-up for people. She’s big, she’s strong, she shoots it. She’s mobile.
I think those two are capable of winning the game. But, what they did in Paris was, in the fourth quarter, some other people made some shots. And that usually is the difference. You spend so much time worrying about their two stars and then all of a sudden, somebody your’e not paying attention to makes a couple of shots. They only made three 3s in the entire game, but they were all in the fourth quarter.
They’re a good team because everybody compliments each other very well. But, I think Celine and Sandrine are the two players who really make them dangerous.
What are your thoughts on the new tournament format and how are you able to get everybody on the same page in such a short amount of time?
Fortunately, we have a lot of the same players (as in 2010), so that really helped. I think five or six, seven maybe, were here with us in 2010. That made the transition a little bit smoother. But, there is no easy way to get better quickly. We’ve cut down on the number of things we’re trying to do. So, you have less things that you have to worry about. You just give them a few things and try to get really good at those few things.
Definitely the format as it used to be helped us more than this format. I was watching some film from the World Championship in 2010 and I watched us play in the semifinals and the finals. We had seven games (before the semifinals and finals) and we looked like this (snaps his fingers twice). Now, we have three. But, that’s the format. It is what it is and we’ve gotten better every game that we’ve played, and that’s a great sign.
Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
This arena is where you will be playing for Fenerbahce this winter. Is it exciting to play here now?
I’m definitely looking forward to it. I know how passionate the Turkish fans are in general. I played with Galatasary two years ago, so I’m looking forward to a new opportunity.
Is the team ready for the medal round?
For sure. There are always things you can tweak. We are just going to work on that daily. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and playing against France.
What about the matchup against France?
They’re very aggressive; they are going to keep going. It will be very competitive. They have Sandrine Gruda and (Celine) Dumerc. They have a couple players who play in the WNBA, so they are well-rounded.
Is this a game where the USA will look to get even for that exhibition loss?
You could say that is in the back of our minds, of course, but at the same time, we know what the goal is. We are just going to take it one day at a time.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
What was your reaction when you heard the USA lost its game in Paris?
I was a little shocked. I watched the game (film), and we know that we made some errors in the game. I think today we were able to correct those errors that we made, and we have a better game plan heading into this game.
Was it a surprise that the team lost?
To me, yes. I have all the confidence in the world in my team. So, when I heard about the loss, I was a little shocked actually.
What do you think of the French team?
They’ve definitely shown themselves to be good. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be here. We don’t overlook any opponent. We don’t take for granted any games. So, anybody who’s out there, we’re going to give our best to try to beat them.
How do you find the motivation to play hard when it looks like the games are easy?
We don’t want to do give half a job. We want to go out there and put it all on the floor. We don’t ever want to not play our best game. It’s just going to hurt us. We just want to get better every game, and I think that’s what motivates us to play so hard.
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
On playing France, the only team that has beaten the USA:
Yeah, just one player makes a difference – Brittney Griner, her length, just her athleticism, big difference. Not even that, even without her, we are a different team. We didn’t play like we know how to play. We were sluggish, lazy. We’ll be ready tomorrow.
Are you excited for the medal round?
Yeah. I’m ready. And it’s in my home gym. I feel like I’m at home, so I’m excited to play. Hopefully our fans will come out, support me and Tina (Charles), because we are playing here. So, I’m looking forward to it.
On playing in Turkey:
I just like it here. I’m just fortunate to be have been able to play here many years, and they’ve given me chance after chance to come and improve myself each time. So, I’m just excited to be here again.
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
On playing France, the only team that has beaten the USA:
They played really well, and we didn’t. We didn’t play with the level of focus and energy that was required to beat them on their home court. So, we definitely are excited to get another shot at playing better, playing together and being more connected, now that we’ve been together that much longer, against a team that, if they get going, they can be pretty dangerous.
I think you and Diana Taurasi shot very poorly in that game (Note: they combined to shoot 4-23 FGs)?
We probably set a record for worst shooting from the two of us combined (smiling). When we are playing against each other, we have no problem. When we are teammates, for some reason that night, we struggled. But, I’m confident we will score the ball. That’s not my worry. When we come together and are locked in defensively, our offense takes care of itself.
Every time B.G. is in the lane, it makes it that much harder for people to score inside, and if we can put enough pressure on their guards and their shooting bigs on the outside, we know we are going to get the board and go.
Did that loss open the team’s eyes?
Naturally. Losing a game is going to open your eyes. For us, of course we don’t want to have to learn or be reminded of those lessons by taking a loss, but that’s what happened, and we are going to make the most of it by taking those feelings, those emotions and motivation into tomorrow’s game.