Additional Quotes: USA Women's National Team 104, Australia 89
USA head coach Geno Auriemma (Connecticut)
On the game against Australia:
Obviously, we played a great team. They’re as good as everybody thinks they are, and they got some terrific players and they are really, really hard to play against. It was a real test for us that we really needed at this particular time. You try to tell everybody that winning a gold medal isn’t easy, and you can see why. I thought our guys were great. Throughout the game, I thought we were great. We just did a lot of good things today, and there are things we need to get better at, no question. We have to get way better defensively in a couple of areas, and we will. We have some things we need to work on, which we will, but we have a lot of pieces to work with, and I was just really happy with this group tonight.
On how this team compares to the 2012 Olympic team:
As far as the team, I think every team is different. Every team finds its own identity. Even though we have nine players from that London team, they’re four years older. Things have changed a little bit, and they have changed individually. We’ve added three new pieces to the team that have changed the team. So, I think all in all it’s a different team. But different can mean better, and I think we are in a lot of ways better than we were in 2012. I think we have a lot more that we can do, a lot more options. But this competition I think showed we played three teams that have a pretty good chance to medal. They are good. We try to tell everybody that this isn’t as easy as it looks. The thing about Australia is they have been in Rio already. They have been overseas already, and they have trained together for months, and months and months. We have to work really, really hard to make it look the way we made it look today, and today wasn’t easy. Every year is different, and I’m looking forward to it.
On Elena Delle Donne:
You see Elena dive for a loose ball ... should be the headline in the paper! Elena Delle Donne dives for a loose ball! When you play on the Olympic team, you end up doing things that make you feel like you are contributing something to the team. It can be points, rebounds, playing great defense, an assist here and there. Basically we want everybody to do what they are good at. Obviously, one of Elena’s roles that she’s good at is she scores. And we talked about this, most teams have really good starting fives, most teams have a little bit of depth. It’s the national teams, so it’s the best that they have. But, we feel that we’ve got some players coming off the bench that are hard to deal with, and you saw that tonight. Elena, Angel, Seimone, those girls are hard to deal with. I don’t know if it will be that way every night, but given the opportunity Elena and anyone of those other guys can take over the game for stretches the way they did tonight. I just want everyone on this team to feel like, ‘I know what I did to get me on this team, and I’m just going to try and do that to the best of my ability,’ and tonight she did that.
On the starting lineup:
We’ve started a different five in every game that we’ve been on this trip. Will we settle on a five when we get there (Rio)? I don’t know. I’m not sure. The circumstances might dictate. So right now, I like the fact that every one of them feels that tonight could be me. Regardless of whether they are in the starting lineup or not, their role is not going to change that much, and they know that.
On the defense against Elizabeth Cambage:
I thought our post players did a pretty good job. As hard as they tried, there is just nothing you can do against someone like an (Elizabeth) Cambage. You just can’t. So, we worked really hard, and we tried to make it difficult on her. There is just no one like her that’s playing basketball right now. I thought our big guys took turns being really good. I don’t think our perimeter defense was that great tonight. I thought we gave up a lot of 3s. We haven’t spent a lot of time on it, but I think we’ll be a lot better as the games progress in Rio, because we’ll get a chance to spend more time on it. But, I like the combinations that we have that can be good defenders in the post.
On playing at Madison Square Garden and the crowd:
When we were trying to arrange this trip, we really wanted to end it here. We talked about it, and where is the best place to end? USA Basketball, the people at the Garden, the people at the New York Liberty, they did a great job arranging this, because this is where I wanted it to end. This is where I wanted the USA Women’s National Team to have their last appearance in the United States, here, because there is no other place like here. Madison Square Garden in New York, and I’m glad it went out the way it did. A lot of credit goes to the staff at the Garden and the staff at the Liberty.
On Diana Taurasi:
Maybe because I’ve been around her for so long, I’ve always been of the opinion that as long as we have Diana Taurasi on the court playing with our team, we have a chance to win every single game that we play. The problem is Diana is sometimes so unselfish, she’s such a great teammate that she doesn’t impose herself on the game. She kind of sets the tone for our team. Like Tina said, when Diana is playing the game at a really high level, it’s really fun to watch. It’s really fun to watch.
Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx)
On preparing for the Olympics:
We make no excuses. We know that we don’t have that much time. We only have eight days to get ready to go to Rio. Every day at practice, every day at exhibition games, the prep that we have – it counts. I’m glad that we are starting to put it together. If you saw us play against the select team to now, we can see that we are pulling it together.
On the biggest step they made from the start until now:
Defense, defensive strategy. That is kind of how we want to play. We want to speed teams up and play off our defense. If we don’t ever have to run a half-court set, then that would be great. The dictation of what we are doing is being more aggressive and playing off that.
On playing in her third Olympics:
It means a lot. The first one (Olympics) was the biggest one, because my dad cried the first time I got my gold medal, but this one is a little bit more special, as far as the 20th year of the ’96 team, all of that that is going on, being able to celebrate that with them and hopefully carying on the tradition and the legacy of winning a sixth (consecutive) gold medal.
What are your hopes for what we will see from women’s basketball at the 2016 Olympics?
I just hope that the game continues to grow. Twenty years, 40 years, 60, let’s keep it going, because the players are getting better. You see Elena Delle Donne and all these versatile players that we have. The game is just going to get better. Hopefully, we continue to get the exposure that we need to continue to let this league and these women grow and be able to do what they love to do – play basketball.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
On today's game:
Typical – meaning the type of game it was, really physical. They're a really good team. I know the score is going to make it look like we dominated the game, but that wasn't the case at all. From the tip to the end we had to play really hard, had to play really smart to win that game. They’re a very good team, and I know they will only get better in the next two weeks.
On the reception throughout the showcase:
I definitely had a moment today. You look around, you hear them chanting, ‘USA,’ just the love we felt, not just here, Bridgeport, Delaware, L.A. We've never had anything like this. We never had a U.S. send off like this, where we got to travel around and hit a bunch of cities. It's pretty special. It’s pretty cool. I wish they would do this every Olympics to be honest.
On playing at Madison Square Garden:
Couldn't ask for a better send off. My friends and family are here. It's at the Garden. It's in New York. We took care of business, and now we can have a nice little night. Four o'clock game, not too late, (we) can enjoy ourselves tonight a little bit.
On the way they finished out the exhibition:
I think the best part about the tour is not the wins but that we got better. From L.A. to now, I'm pretty sure you guys can see a significant difference with us. That's what it's about for us. It's about getting better every day, with each game and each practice, until we get to Rio and hopefully hit our stride and our peak.
On her performance:
We're probably going to see this team again. We were able to learn some things about ourselves and about them. I think we did some great things. I think we did some not so great things. You can see what you need to work on and what you need to get better at.
Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)
On the defense:
Coming into the league, I wasn't trying to be a defensive player. I was focused on being an offensive player. But to play in this league, you have to be able to have a defensive presence, and that carries over to this team. My role on Team USA has always been to bring the energy, the defense and do whatever I can.
With this being your last Olympics are you trying to soak it up?
Yes, definitely. In the previous ones, I haven’t really gotten out and experienced other events. I look forward to getting out off the court and seeing what Rio has to offer.
With the young stars on this team, are you trying to give tips and mentor them?
Yes, especially since many of them have a similar game to mine. They're always looking back when I'm on the bench saying, 'Hey did I do that right?' and I really see how they're willing to learn, and it's my job as a vet on this team to help the young players out.
Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
On tonight’s game:
As I had said right before the game, it’s just such an honor to be able to play here, the city, being born and raised in Queens, being able to represent the New York Liberty this go around and to be on this team, to be one out of twelve – it’s a blessing for me. So, I think we did really well tonight. Obviously, like Coach [Auriemma] said, there’s some things we have to work on. But, just really thankful for the support, and it’s good to be playing at the Garden right now.
On team chemistry:
As far as the team coming together, I think we’re doing great. Having leaders such as Tamika [Catchings], D [Diana Taurasi] and Sue [Bird] definitely are putting us in a position to be successful. Everybody is zoning in on just what it’s going to take to win, just what our role is going to be on this team and taking it in stride.
On WNBA season:
As far as the way I’m playing, game two versus Indiana [Fever] is still on my mind. We were up 20, we definitely could have closed out that game, could’ve been in the finals and could’ve had a banner up in Madison Square Garden right now. So, that’s just where my emphasis is on the court.
On tonight’s atmosphere at Madison Square Garden:
The crowd was what I expected. I was born and raised here, grew up watching the Knicks play – especially the 90s Knicks, grew up watching the New York Liberty. Just that energy that’s in there is what I expected from a great crowd, for them to come out and support us on a night like this. And, even Canada and France – just the respect for them as well. Tonight was really great – to see D pump up the crowd with her 3s, and so on and so forth. It was really cool for them to see us play and for them to support us.
Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
On her role with the team:
I think it's going to vary from game to game. The way I'm going to have to play will vary. I can't wait to get there and get settled.
On playing against other countries:
I'm really glad to get that under my belt, since I don't have much European experience.
On prepping for Rio:
Every game is really big for us, because we haven't had much time to practice. The only time we get five-on-five is these games. It's huge for us to continue to improve. Great win for us., We have to continue to get better.
On coming off the bench in Rio:
I like it. I feel like I can watch the game flow a bit, and get in there and feel confident. Whatever he (Geno Auriemma) plays me at I’ll be ready.
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
On playing Australia:
I think it’s something that we did with playing USA basketball. We played in Europe. We know how it’s going to be, but Australia is just a physical team overall, and we know what they’re capable of, and we know what they’re going to come out and do. So, I think that it’s a mental focus more than anything, just to go out there and not let them rattle you up and just focus on what you’re supposed to do together as a unit.
This is your third Olympics, so what does it mean to you to be able to go for another gold medal and be part of this USA basketball industry?
I’m blessed. I’m fortunate to be part of my third. Not many people get this opportunity but just to be with this group of ladies that we have, I think it’s more special.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
What’s the toughest thing about playing Australia?
They’re a tough team physically. They never give up, no matter the league. They’re going to hit you. They’re going to make you work for everything on both ends of the floor, and so it’s a grind for 40 minutes. That’s what kind of separates them from some of the other teams. Not that the other teams aren’t physical, but Australia is always really physical.
You may end up facing them again in the later stages in Rio, how might that matchup differ from what you saw against them today?
Well, we had some really good stretches today where we just kept going kept running, running, running, and then when somebody got tired, we’d bring somebody off the bench and keep that high intensity going. That’s just what we’re going to have to keep doing on both ends, just play high intensity.
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
On the showcase:
It's meant a lot. These are the teams we will see in Brazil. It's been a great tournament. Everybody is excited about this team. Now we need to go to Rio to do what we need to do.
On coming off the bench for team USA:
I just want to come out and bring energy. That's how we wear teams down. We don't lose anything by bringing us off the bench. Us wearing teams down, we wear them down by the fourth quarter.
On the history of USA basketball:
It's motivation. We're part of that legacy. Years down the line girls are going to look at us. I'm glad to be part of it. It's a great group of girls, and we want to continue to keep that legacy going. We need to be on a Wheaties box.
On what U.S. teams she's excited to see in Rio:
I'm excited to see KD (Kevin Durant), Demarcus Cousins, all the guys. I like them all, and it’s a great group of guys. I'm ready to get to know them better and continue to hang out with these girls and have a good time in Rio. This is the Olympics, it's a positive thing. We're ready to go in there and have some fun.
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
On tonight’s game:
We wanted to come out today and really respond well to a good test. Australia is a very physical, very talented, skilled team. We were going to have to come and bring our energy, our focus, and for the most part we did that.
On becoming playmaker on team:
I think it’s carrying over from the [Minnesota] Lynx season that we’re having, understanding spacing, and just being a year older and recognizing different plays and situations on the floor. Being surrounded by great scorers helps, too. It’s the name of the game: you find that extra teammate, reading the situation. I get to pick from a lot of great players. The assists on this team are going to be sky high because of how many great players we have.
On returning to the Olympics:
It’s going to be an interesting experience. London, for me, was a perfect first Olympics – going to a place where I didn’t have to worry about a language barrier, just a really great atmosphere. With how to get around -- if I wanted to see something, I could figure that out for the most part. So, we’ll see once I get down there, how much outside of the Games we’ll be able to enjoy. Playing has definitely been super fun, some of my most favorite times. We have a lot going on with exposure and trying to create buzz around what we’re doing. It’s a lot we’re investing on that side of the ball. But, once we’re on the court, I think I’m enjoying the game even more so than I did my first time around.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
On the game:
I thought it was a really good game, and we played really well as a team. Just seeing how we have progressed from our first game to our fourth game. Defensively, we picked things up at halftime and didn’t let them get what they want.
How do you feel after the last exhibition game and now that you are so close to getting to Rio?
I can’t believe it. I keep seeing on Twitter, the countdown to Rio, and that sort of thing. Like you said, final exhbition game, and now we get ready for the real thing.
You played in Connecticut two nights ago, and now at Madison Square Garden. What did it mean to play here? Are you close to your hometown?
Anytime you come to the Garden and play, it’s huge, just because of the history. It’s the mecca of basketball. So, you really want to embrace that. It’s a similar distance from Bridgeport – four-and-a-half (hours). But, I have people that were here supporting me. To have them be able to come see me in my last game before I go to Rio is huge.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On the second half:
It's a good sign that we came out of the half playing strong, because it sets a tone for the rest of the game. I think that's the one thing we really focused on in these four games: coming in and setting the tone.
Did it feel like an exhibition game for you guys?
Yeah, when you're playing one of the best teams in the world, and you see when they’re playing the anthem, the good players they have, which are some of the best in the world, there's some competitiveness there. That is good because it makes you play better. We learned a lot about ourselves today, and I'm sure they did, too.
Was this a good week for you guys?
It really was a good week. It was a week of getting better, building better habits with each other, and we've gotten much better since playing the select team.
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
How or what do you think this team has done to come together?
Well, I think it's been a really good week for us as far as starting in L.A., coming to the east coast, playing every other day for a week. I think we've played well, and we've played well together. We've had some times when we haven't, but we've figured it out as we’ve gone on. But, each individual has to find their rhythm to help the team, doing what you have to do for the team. It's been huge for us.
How big do you think Sylvia Fowles defense is going to be in Rio?
Huge. I mean just that inside presence and rebounding. She's able to get stops and get the rebound. I think she's averaging three blocks the last month or so. She's been very effective, a very great force all season. And now here on this team, just really making a great impact on this team.