Additional Quotes: USA Men's Pan American Games Team 85, Venezuela 62
Mark Few, USA Head Coach (Gonzaga College)
What were your overall thoughts on tonight’s game?
Well it was a total tale of two halves. We were absolutely awful in the first half. We didn’t do anything on offense, we didn’t play together, we didn’t run anything. We kind of let their physicality just push us out and then our answer was either to take a tough shot or drive in there and miss a bunny. Then we compounded it with some silly turnovers and a couple of defensive letdowns. But to their credit they came out after halftime and played probably as good of a half as we’ve played counting our two scrimmages and even some of the things we did back in the states.
It was 100 percent flip. We played great defense in the second half and we were pretty darn efficient on the offensive end in the second half too.
What did you try to get them to focus on at halftime?
To attack. We needed to attack. It was just kind of a soft press, but then also after we attacked to get into our flow, and get into all the early offensive stuff we’ve been working on for the time we’ve been together practicing, which has been short, but we have been working on that a lot. Even though they were kind of breaking us out of our normal rhythm we needed to get into a semblance of offense and kind of use each other to get some good shots.
And then Bobby (Brown) got going. He played horrible in the first half and fantastic in the second half. When your point guard is able to that, he’s kind of the guy driving the train right now.
How important were Damien Wilkins’ contributions tonight?
I think he had seven offensive boards, he’s kind of the heart and soul of our team. I think the guys look to him for leadership; they look to him for how he responds when we hit tough times like this. He was down there digging out offensive rebounds, getting us extras baskets, getting us those ugly ones around the hoop. I think that’s a source of inspiration especially for our young guys.
You said rebounding was important. Kaleb (Tarczewski) and Anthony (Randolph) had a good day on the boards. How critical is that for the team’s success?
I think it’s really critical. I think going into this thing we thought that was a little bit of a weakness for us. In the scrimmage with Canada we got pounded pretty good on the glass. We talked about it and we drilled it a little bit and I thought one game in the guys really responded. I thought Kaleb (Tarczewski), Damien (Wilkins), Anthony (Randolph) did a good job on the defensive glass, and we’ll see if we can get a couple of other guys stepping up.
What about Puerto Rico? What do you expect from them?
Just pressing, and zone and trying to muck it up almost like what we saw today. Taking us out of our rhythm on offense and forcing you to make feel plays and basketball plays. We’ll have to do that and we’ll have to guard Barea (Jose Juan Barea) and the ball screen. We’re going to get him over and over and over in the ball screen.
Glad to get that first game out of the way?
Yeah, we needed that one. We had a bad first half. We came out slow and they threw their punches in the first half and we just had to come together, come out in the second half and play harder and get stops. We did that in the second half. We played together, we showed more energy, we showed more patience, and that’s how we came out with the victory. I’m just happy everybody settled in and we won.
You had a good third quarter and finally got some shots to fall. Could you feel yourself get into a groove?
Yeah, in that first half I couldn’t get in my groove. But in the second half I knew I had to come out and be more aggressive and be a leader. I spoke to coach at halftime and he said ‘let’s get going’ and once he tells me that I’ve got to go out there and show myself. I’m glad that happened in the third quarter and that helped turn the game around.
Kaleb Tarczewski (University of Arizona)
Do you think the team’s poor start in the first half was just nervousness or anxiousness?
I think it was a little bit of everything. Obviously for a lot of us it was our first time experiencing the international game. It’s obviously physical. Were also the United State of America and we’re going to get everyone’s best shot to start off the games. But I think we really did a great job of weathering that storm and just taking it one step at a time. We came on strong in the second half, battled through adversity and we really owed it all to our veteran leadership. Our veterans really kept us calm throughout the entire game and really made it easy for us.
Coach Few has talked about rebounding be a point of emphasis for the team, you did a great job and had 13 rebounds, was that a focus for you?
I think that’s always a focus for me. Getting rebounds leads to easy offense and also creates for me on offense as well - getting offensive rebounds, getting second chances. So it’s something I focus on every game and that’s obviously a big thing for us.
Did it feel good to get this first one out of the way?
Yeah, I think it felt good for everyone to get that first one out of the way. Once we settled in and relaxed and played basketball the right way, we were good. I think that first half was indicative of our youth a little bit because we they sped us up and we gave into it as opposed to saying ‘okay that’s how they want to play, let’s settle down.’ Most importantly, we got better with each quarter and we’ve got 16 quarters to go out here and we’ve got to keep getting better.
Could you feel the team get into a rhythm once shots started to fall in the second half?
It wasn’t so much about getting into the rhythm offensively, it was more we started executing defensively. We started getting stops and we started doing what we should have been doing after we got the stops. And that’s attacking, and attacking early, moving the ball and moving bodies. After that we pretty much got what we wanted. We’ve just got to continue to be aggressive when teams press up on us and try to turn us over and make us speed up. We’ve got to attack it with aggression and be stronger with the ball, and make better decisions down the stretch early in the game so we don’t dig ourselves in a hole because we can’t start like that against really, really good teams. This was a first step and it was good that we faced that type of adversity early.
What does this say about the team, regaining its composure and come back and play a second half like that?
It says that we’re growing. We still have a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of us, but I think we grew throughout the game and getting better throughout the game is important.