Additional Quotes: USA Women's National Team Exhibition vs. Canada
USA head coach Geno Auriemma (Connecticut)
Well, we went in with the idea that we want to be a lot better, just better today than we were in the France game. I thought we were. I felt defensively we were. We were about as good as we can be given the short amount of work that we’ve done. That kind of led to a bunch of other things. I’m sure Stewie said this, but when you have a group of players like this that are going to, for the most part, play hard, they’re going to compete every possession. That’s what is going to be needed. That’s what is going to be necessary to win a gold medal. It’s going to take whatever the effort was today and then maybe some more, because Sunday’s game is going to be a little more difficult than tonight’s game. That’s good for us. The more difficult games we play before we get to Rio, the better.
On the defensive talent:
I’m sure when the team was being picked, I don’t know if the committee sat around and said, ‘Well, you know what? These two guys are really great defensive players, and that’s why they’re on the team.’ I think the fact that they’re such great offensive players and they want to play defense, I think that’s a unique combination to be able to have players that can score and then want to make that commitment on the defensive end. Certainly, when you look at how many WNBA MVPs we’ve had, with Maya, Tina, Diana, Catch. I don’t know if I’m missing anybody. Elena last year. Elena Delle Donne. When you have that many great players, it’s just a matter of getting them committed to the defensive end, and they are for sure. And you have to be, because the teams that we’re playing against, they’re good. They’re good offensively. Tonight we were great defensively.
On starting five former UConn players:
We did the same thing in Delaware with Elena. Sunday, it will be somebody different at the Garden. We haven’t had the same starting five in any of the games that we’ve played. And I don’t know who the starting five is going to be once we get to Rio. I thought to myself. I asked Cheryl. I said Cheryl, ‘If you were the head coach instead of me, you would start Stewie, right? Because it’s the right thing to do.’ She said, ‘yeah.’ I said, ‘Okay, then I’m not going to worry about it.’ So I did it. I thought it was fun. It was fun for the kids and fun for the fans.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
On her level of production at this stage in her career and what she attributes that to:
After two tough years, when I felt like I wasn’t myself, kind of looking in the mirror and asking yourself, ‘How do you want your career to end?’ That’s really what it came down to. I figured, why not try to control everything you can. Try to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ and see where it gets you. With that, I really worked on my nutrition. I really developed a workout plan that was going to be beneficial to my body with a lot less pounding than usual, and I’m lucky I have people in Seattle (with the Storm) who are going to support me. So, that means a lot of bike riding and less practicing, which is fine by me at this point. When you don’t have to worry about your body feeling like crap every day, when you’re consistently feeling good, it allows you to worry about what’s actually in front of you and what’s important. Maybe that’s where the ‘think young’ part comes in. Other than that, I’m surrounded by 22-year olds every day, so that might help.
On the USA having a starting lineup of five former UConn players tonight in Connecticut:
It is pretty incredible. A lot of people talk about, ‘last Olympics you had six UConn players and this year you have five.’ How can you argue it? You’re talking about some of the best basketball players in the world, and, yes, they happen to come from the same program. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so, but I also don’t think it’s necessarily anything to hate on. It’s the reality of the situation. We all came from the same place, and in a lot of ways, think the game the same. And when you have people, no matter if you played with them in college or, in my case, if you’re 14 years older, it seems to mesh well. I’m playing with Stewie (Breanna Stewart) now in Seattle, and it’s so easy.
Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
Was defense the big key tonight and was having more time together as a team the key?
Definitely, having a bit more time together helped. But we spoke all day today about how they (Canada) like to run a lot of offense. They like to run a lot of clock. So, we wanted to put a lot of pressure on them to start, so they didn’t have as much clock to run out. And from there, we didn’t want them to reverse the ball. We wanted them to have to play on one side of the court, which made it more difficult for them to get into any offense. So, yes, defense was huge.
Does it take an unselfishness to play defense like you guys did tonight?
For sure, but that’s what this team is all about, and that’s why this team was formed (as it is). There are a bunch of unselfish players who want to win a gold medal and who will do anything possible for the team in order to get that.
Were you pleased with the overall offensive improvement tonight?
Definitely. We’re starting to flow into things, putting some more offenses in. Obviously, we’ll continue to improve, but getting more comfortable together (is big) right now. It felt good to get a lot of people involved. That’s what we’re going to need with the great teams we’re going to be facing. We’re going to need every single person to contribute.
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
On the game against Canada:
I think overall, we started out great. Our defense is what set the tone for everybody. Whoever came on the floor, did a good job of not slacking from the first five players.
What will be the focus against Australia?
The focus will be on us individually and as a team and what’s good for us. I’m sure the coaches and staff are going to get us in a good mindset, because it’s Australia. The last few times we meet, they have done some good things and some not so good, and we have to put that into perspective and utilize it that way.
On the crowd in Bridgeport, Connecticut:
The crowd was great. It feels good to be home and playing in front of our own fans. They cheered us on to victory tonight, and it was very loud.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
On the game against Canada:
It was a good game. That first quarter, I think we really set the tone on defense. That first group really got after it. We switched when we needed to switch. When we messed up it didn’t show, because we had each other’s back with talking on defense. It just kept going. When we came out after halftime, that was just amazing, I don’t know what the run was, but I think they turned it over three times in a row, and we scored on it. If we play like that, it’s going to be good.
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
On her defense:
That’s why I’m on this team I feel like. We have scorers. People can score. We are all scorers on our teams. I want to be the person that is going to come off the bench and bring that defensive lift to get to the offense. We are going to need that will tougher games in Rio, so I’m glad that I can be a unique player, a defensive player. That’s what the team needs, and I’m glad that I can be one of the players that adds that.
On the team’s defensive start:
I think it was good. Canada is very good. Don’t let the scoreboard fool you. They are very physical. They move a lot. They are going to win a lot of games in Rio. We definitely matched their intensity. We got a little more physical with them, and stopped some of their cuts, but it’s hard to guard some of their cuts, but we got some stops.
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
On having five UConn players in tonight’s starting lineup
It’s a special kind of moment and taking a picture after the game really drove it home, because it’s not something we have given much thought to. But wow, with Stewie being young, Diana and Sue being older and me and Tina in the middle it was really rewarding.
On the patriotism involved in being part of the Olympic Team
Our sendoff has been great. People really embrace us and cheer us on and support us, so we definitely enjoy it, and it’s something that fuels us and helps us to play as hard and as passionately as we can. When we leave the country, we want to represent the USA well by treating everyone well but competing hard.
On the differences of being part of the Olympic Team for the second time
Yeah, I think it’s a little different, because I know more about the rhythm of how it works and what to expect. I know more about what this month looks like, so I’m in a great spot where I can still take direction and comfort from the senior leaders that have been around, but at the same time being able to help the younger players. It’s really a fun spot to be in. Having the experience of four years ago under my belt does help to calm the nerves, but I’m sure once the games get going, we’ll have a lot of good nerves and be anxious to get out there and play.
On the evolution of Tina Charles
It’s been a process for her starting with her freshman year at UConn working with (associate head coach Chris Dailey) and the coaches day after day early in the morning. Early on she was trying to find her way and was trying to figure out Coach, and she finally broke through that wall during her junior year and was unstoppable in the Final Four. Since then, she’s been the Tina that we know, now plus she has added things to her game. So, it’s just been really fun to watch her evolve, and it’s inspiring to see my teammate continue to add things to her game.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
I thought it was great to come back to Bridgeport to play in Connecticut. Any time you can come back here, even though I’ve been gone three months or four months, the fan support here is tremendous, and it gave our team a lot of energy and helped us move to the next step toward Rio.
On starting with four other UConn players tonight:
Yeah, I think that was really cool. I didn’t really realize it until they called out the starters. You heard the fans getting louder, and louder and louder. Coach honestly had his good reasons for that, but it was cool to see everyone’s reaction from it.
On starting for the U.S. National Team:
I think the opportunity of just being on this team is huge, too. But being able to come to the game today, and like you said, to start, it’s exciting. It’s exciting being here. It’s exciting playing with these players. It’s exciting being coached by Coach.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On the game versus Canada:
… Everyone was in it. Everyone was ready. Sometimes it just takes a little time to get back into that kind of a mindset with USA Basketball. If we get production out of everyone like that and play with that edge, we can live with whatever result.
You look as competitive as you have ever been. How do you sustain that?
It is hard when you get a little bit older. But there are nights where you walk out to the gym, like today, and with a crowd like this and being back in Connecticut, there is just stuff that comes up in you that makes you want to play at a different level. I’m lucky that I got to play four years here, and I know that feeling. And when I feel it, you know what is going to happen, and it’s pretty cool.
Do you want to make sure that you leave a mark on this game?
Definitely. I know my games are numbered and my years are numbered. I know that. I’m a realist. I just know that every time I’m on that court, I got to give my all. It’s kind of been the way I’ve approached every day. And when I get with USA Basketball, I try to do it to the max.