Additional Quotes: USA U19 85, Australia 82 (exhibition)
USA U19 head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina)
On the USA’s low shooting in the first half (11-34 FGs, 32.4 percent):
It took us awhile to adjust to this style of play. Sometimes when you play against our style of play, like we played against the U.S. Pan American Games Team, it gives you a false sense of what it’s really like. But coming over and playing in Europe and playing against some of the best teams in the world in this age category is much different.
Australia played extremely hard and scrappy. They were able to stay in the game. I think it was good for our players to get a chance to see that style of play, make adjustments and hopefully we’ll play a little bit better as we get more and more games under our belt.
Was it good to have a close game like you had today to get the team more focused?
It was a great game for that. We haven’t had a game in a long time. This was an opportunity for us to see someone who was a little different. A lot of times you get into a lull playing against each other in practice, and sometimes you bring that lull into a game like this. But hopefully, because of the closeness of it, our players will open their eyes and see that this is going to be a tough quest in trying to win a gold medal at the U19 World Championship.
On the play of Crystal Dangerfield and A’ja Wilson:
I thought A’ja (Wilson) did what she was named to the team to do. She was great on both sides of the ball. She rebounded the ball extremely well. She gave us a much-needed scoring punch. Every time the Australians got it close or took the lead, A’ja answered time and time again. She played like a veteran of this tournament.
Crystal Dangerfield, she is a little spark coming off the bench. You almost have to leave her out there, because her speed changes the flow of the game for us. She got her shot going a little bit in the second half and she was able to control the tempo for us for the most part.
Crystal Dangerfield (Blackman H.S./Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
On the game against Australia:
They’re a very physical team, and we’re not used to that. So, we had to get used to the refs and how they were officiating the game and then just go out there and be tough.
Was it good to get a game like this in order to focus in on the upcoming FIBA U19 World Championship?
Yes, because they were good on the boards, so we know that a lot of the rest of the teams are bigger than they are, so we have to come back and work on that tomorrow.
On A’ja Wilson’s play against Australia:
She’s a workhorse. I know for myself, I look to her to get this team going. She played great. She had a double-double, and that’s huge for our team, and for everybody to be able to feed off of that was great.
You stepped to the line with 10 seconds left and your team up by just one point. What was going through your mind?
It felt great to make those. When I went to the line, I knew I had done that time after time, so it felt no different. It was just two free throws. They just meant something more (laughs).
A’ja Wilson (South Carolina/Hopkins, S.C.)
On tonight’s game:
The game was great. I feel like it was a great game for us to get used to the international style of play. It’s been awhile since I’ve played, and it’s new to some people. So, I think it was a great game for us to really get out there and play against a different style of basketball. It was tough. It was very tough, but I’m glad we got the win.
On her play:
It was just a great game. My teammates really helped me out a lot. They got me the ball a lot, and then Australia kept fouling me, so I was really focused this game on making my free throws. I am very proud that I made all 14. That’s something that’s important for me. But, I just really give my teammates credit, because they really helped me out and kept feeding me the ball.
Have you ever had a game where you connected from the line like you did today?
No. I’ve never had a game where I was perfect from the line. I know my parents are happy because they’re always talking about my free throws. I’m excited to text them and tell them that I was perfect from the line. They’re not going to believe it.
On Crystal Dangerfield’s two free throws to seal the win:
Those were huge, because in practice a few days ago we had a free throw drill. Crystal could not make anything. It was like, ‘seal the deal,’ because we were in competition with the other (half of our) team in practice, and she kept missing her free throws.
When she went to the line today, that’s all I could think about. I think that’s all she could think about, ‘I’m not going to do the same thing I did in the drills.’ When she made them, I was so glad that she made them. I feel like that really boosted her confidence.