Additional Quotes: USA Basketball Women’s National Team 84, France 62 (7/27/16)
• Newark, Delaware
USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)
I mean, we have to use these games as practice sessions for us, and as in anything else you just want to keep improving, keep getting better, and I thought we did that tonight, like Elena said. We will be a little bit better tomorrow in practice. We will be a little bit better on Friday against Canada. We’ve got a group of players that have done this a lot of times in their lives. We’ve got Elena (Delle Donne), Sylvia (Fowles) and Brittney (Griner), who have not, so this is a whole another level for them, and it’s not anything they’ve ever experienced. Whatever they’ve experienced in college or on their WNBA teams, there’s WNBA basketball and then there’s Olympic basketball, and they’re two separate things. And they’re starting to find that out, and they’re starting to pick it up a little bit at a time. It was a great atmosphere, and I’m thrilled that we were able to come here, and they’ve got some great basketball fans here and it was nice of us to be able to take part in it.
What did you see this team building on from the first half to the second half to get ready for the Olympics?
I hate to put in on one person’s shoulders, but one of our most unselfish players is Diana Taurasi. And I said to her at half time ‘you need to get more shots,’ and she said ‘no, no, I’m good,’ and I said ‘well I’m not.’ She is so unselfish. But when she starts taking shots or she starts making shots, everybody on the team, it’s like, now we’re good. We have so many good players that it takes a little bit of time for us to get our bearings, but we came out in the second half and the team was a lot more aggressive. Sylvia was just incredible, and same with Sue. We got a lot of great energy, great stuff from the bench in the second half that we really didn’t get in the first half, so that was probably the biggest difference.
What in particular did you like about Sylvia in the third quarter?
Well you know, there’s nobody that can handle Sylvia, not just size-wise in height, but just how strong she is. And when she imposes herself in the lane and at both sides, offensively, defensively, and she gets out of the perimeter and guards, she does great things that most people can’t handle. And the only time that she gets herself in trouble is when she starts to float out there. But when she’s in her moments, like she was today, when she’s really focused on getting to certain spots on the floor, then she finishes. That’s a big, big factor, she finishes. As I said, Angel (McCoughtry), same thing coming off the bench, it was great.
What impresses you most about Tina Charles and her improvement and development?
I was happiest because she [Tina Charles] remembered how to throw her backwards pass to Angel (McCoughtry), that made me smile a little bit. But professional basketball players are just like any other professionals. They study, they get better and they add things to their repertoire. Little by little, she’s better at scoring on the move. She’s really good at using her body around the basket. When she came to UConn her freshman year, she really didn’t have that 15 footer, now it’s like automatic for her. So she’s done what a professional is expected to do, and that’s why she is where she is.
Is this good practice?
I think all three of these teams that are here and are going to be traveling with us, I think all three of them wouldn’t be surprised if they were all competing for the three medal spots. That’s how good they are. We’re seeing the best that’s out there. Yeah there’s more good teams, don’t get me wrong, but these aren’t just the kind of ‘friendlies’ to get a practice in or for score. They’re going to work really, really hard for anything, and if nothing else, it gets you in the right mindset going forward. No, we’re not going to Rio coasting on false confidence. Whatever we get done here is gonna be real. And it’s gonna carry us a long way.”
What have you seen in basic improvement in the team?
Today was a normal game day for us, those couple of days in L.A. were all about everything but the game. It was almost like being in the NCAA Tournament, it was built around other stuff that we had to do. Then they said ‘look, you have some free time, you can go practice’, that’s kind of the way it became, ‘you can go play.’ If we had been together for four months, they would have just taken it in stride, and they did, but today was a regular game day. Today was more like what they’re used to and what they’re going to be seeing. And I knew that our effort would be different than what it was against a select team. I knew that you know, we would get a lot more productive from a lot more people than we did against a select team. And we can also guard plays, which the select team didn’t do, they just ran up and down and had some fun, it’s hard to play against teams like that. It also got our attention too, that’s never bad.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
On her fourth Olympics:
It’s been amazing. Now that it is kind of on the horizon and we will be in Rio soon, you don’t want to take too many opportunities to get sentimental. You want to just enjoy the moment, enjoy the process, but I am excited that it is my fourth. In a lot of ways, I just want to really make the most of it and, again, enjoy every moment.
Did you see a different mindset with the group today?
The other day (against the USA Select Team) was literally our second day of playing, and we were playing against a team that was just kind of playing pick-up. When is all is said as done, it wasn’t even as bad as the score might have indicated, but it definitely showed us some things we need to work on, and I think it woke us up a little bit. We understood at that point the type of energy we are going to have to play with. The focus we are going to have to play with. We understand that we are going to have to play together, and I think today was a good step in that direction on all fronts.
Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
Thought it was an incredible atmosphere number one, really great for us to play in front of a sold out crowd like that. Right now we’re at a point where we have maybe four practices under our belt, something like that. So these games are crucial for us to just get better and to see the improvement from the first all the way to the fourth quarter was really exciting. And we got a lot to build on.
What it means to play in the Bob and the energy in the crowd tonight.
I mean, we have great fans, but they’re also intelligent fans, and when they get to watch the best players in the world come in to the Bob Carpenter center, they eat it up. They were getting so pumped on great offensive plays, even great defensive plays, so our fans are knowledgeable as well. So they’re thrilled to see the greatest players they’ve ever seen in this building.
What it means to inspire young women and spark their interest in basketball:
That’s what it’s all about for us. When we get to the professional level it’s about inspiring the youth, whether it be young boys or young girls. That’s what’s going to grow our game, is getting them excited about basketball. So seeing all those young faces out there in the crowd, some of them went to my academies, some have not, but it’s very exciting to see them, see how inspiring it is. And I’m sure tonight, they came into that gym and fell in love some other players as well, who hopefully they’ll continue to follow as well and hopefully become bigger WNBA fans.
Can you describe the electricity in the stadium tonight?
It was by far the most emotional game I’ve ever played at the Bob. To see faces that have been watching me here since eighth grade and have gone along with me in this entire journey with me, and now see me in a USA jersey, which has been my dream my entire life, and really the pinnacle of my career, it was so special to come out and share that with them as well.
How is this game different from all of the other games you have played here?
Like I said, this has been by far the most special night that I’ve ever played here, and there’s been a lot of special nights on this court, but this by far is the biggest for me. This being a dream come true for me and for a lot of Delaware fans as well, to see a Delawarean heading to the Olympics to compete for a gold medal. I’m not here to just represent myself, or the team, we’re really representing everybody, trying to make this dream come true for everyone.
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
On the team:
We are just coming together, so we are still trying to feel each other out. But with that said, we play with each other throughout the year, so we pretty much have a feel for what each other likes and where they need to be at certain points in time. So, once we get that mesh down together, I think we will be smooth sailing. Every game has been getting better so far, and we are just looking to be on the up and up.
The team has had just two practice together, if that?
I’m thinking we are probably at the fourth practice maybe. But, it’s working out for our good.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
On what she did well tonight:
Blocking shots. That’s one thing I can always rely on when I’m stepping on the ball or fumbling the ball. Just not catching the ball. I can always rely on defense. I might not be able to score, but I’m going to make sure you can’t score either.
On her teammates reaction to her blocked shots:
I notice them. I feed off them. I want to get another one. I love blocking shots more than dunking, so when I get one I want to get another with my left hand, too. I was a little hyped about that.
On the more structured play tonight compared to Monday night:
Being together, getting to shootaround, going over stuff right before the game, we start to get the chemistry going. I’d say it’s more structure. We’re not on top of each other as much anymore, so if we can just keep playing like that and wear teams down, then I think it’s going to be really good for us.
On players playing in front of their home crowd:
It’s big. I know Elena was hyped to come back here. I knew there was going to be a good crowd here to support her and USA. We’ll go to Connecticut, go to New York, then Houston. We don’t play in Houston, but we’re flying out. It’s always good to go back where everybody supported you and [for them] just to see you at the next step is really big.
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
What did Geno say at halftime to help inspire the third quarter?
Sometimes it’s just a matter of keep pushing, keep pushing, keep doing what you are doing, keep focusing in on the little things. We have so much experience, so much talent, that sometimes you just have to keep going, and the flood gates will break open. I thought our defensive intensity was more consistent. We moved the ball a little bit better, and just played with a lot of confidence.
Do you think you will be able to work through the offensive kinks before Rio?
Yes, I think we will. Every day that we are together, we continue to get more comfortable with each other, continue to be able to read each other, learn each other’s instincts and where we like it. But, also learning the instincts of the sets that we are in. Again, the longer that we are together, the more comfortable we are going to get with each other.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On what the atmosphere was like tonight in the arena
To hear the “USA!” chant from the whole crowd, that felt really good. I haven’t had that a lot in my 14 years with the national team. We’ve usually been playing overseas.
On what the U.S. team improved upon tonight
I think, offensively (we improved) in terms of getting out of each other’s way. I think the unselfishness sometimes puts you in positions where you pass up shots, and you look around and there’s eight seconds (on the shot clock), and we haven’t done anything. So there’s that balance. And, defensively, we played with a little bit more energy, with a certain edge that we didn’t have against the Select Team (on Monday). So, it’s good to know that we can get that.
On Tina Charles’ offensive game continuing to evolve
Before the game I told her, ‘You need to be Tina Charles.’ And when she plays like that in the post, we’re gonna be a difficult team to beat, because she’s just so dynamic down there. She draws so much attention, and when she’s dialed in like that it just makes it better. So, we know she can do that for us and she’s gonna continue to be great.
On the U.S. team’s depth
It’s always been our greatest strength. We don’t get the time to prepare; we don’t get the time to practice together. We just go and play these exhibition games. Our greatest strength has always been our numbers. We’re gonna start with five, and you’re gonna put your next five in, and we’re gonna put our next five in and that’s gonna cause a lot of problems for teams.
On Geno Auriemma using combos of bigs – Brittany Griner and Sylvia Fowles, Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles – what does that mix of styles do for you?
With these tournaments, there’s going to be a time and a place for everyone. I was telling B.G. (Brittney Griner) tonight, ‘You didn’t get in much tonight, but there’s gonna be a time and a place where you are going to be the most important person on that floor. That’s just the way these tournaments are. From team to team we’re gonna have to mold what we do to try and beat that team.
On the difference between Breanna Stewart in college and in the WNBA
I know we played France in 2014 in Turkey and I remember, she ran down the court and she got hit in the chest and she stopped. Today, first possession that she was in, she got hit and ran right through it. That just tells you the difference, in one little play like that.