Additional Quotes: U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team 105, China 62 (8/14/16)
USA head coach Geno Auriemma
On the U.S. team’s 40 assists on 46 buckets:
This is game five, and we try to use these games to try to build some momentum moving forward. This team’s played a total of nine games together up to now. So, each and every one we’ve gotten a little bit better at something. And we knew kind of what we wanted to do today, and I think in every single area that we had marked down that we wanted to get accomplished, we got accomplished today. When you have 40 assists in a basketball game, and I talked to the team about it, there can’t be anything better in the game of basketball then when you get an assist. You can get rebounds, blocked shots, whatever, all that’s great, you get a bucket, but when you know you made it possible to help one of your teammates get an easy basket, that to me, that’s basketball. You can’t play it any better than we played it in the first half. That was really fun to watch.
Is this the best thing you’ve seen out of this team?
There’s been a lot of things I’ve been happy with with them. But, when it kind of comes together like this and the ball’s moving, everybody’s getting into the mix, we’re not relying on one individual to make it happen for us, and obviously they’re close to me, but when you get Sue (Bird) and Dee (Taurasi) out there together and the other team decides that they want to start trapping them, then we’re going to get a lot of layups, and that’s exactly what happened.
On Elena Delle Donne not playing:
She got poked in the eye during warmups, and our athletic trainer, Ed Ryan, she might have been able to go or not, but he said we should just wait. He said there’s no worries about Tuesday.
Heading into the quarterfinal against Japan:
I actually saw Japan play Australia earlier this week, and I thought they looked amazing. They’re big, they’re talented, they’re tough. Every game they’ve played has been a tough game. In the past, if I remember (correctly), coaching against them, not much has changed in how well they move you and how well they spread the floor and try to create mismatches. They’re a lot like Serbia in that they can really make you look silly on defense. And it’s going to be hard, because they’re really, really good. It’s the quarterfinals of the Olympics, and it’s supposed to be hard.
On the play of Sylvia Fowles against China:
I think it’s unusual that you have somebody who’s that good catching the ball on the move. It’s almost easier to get her when she’s moving than when she’s trying to post up. It’s unusual, but it’s kind of neat. We’re trying to get Syl to slow down all the time. The only time she gets herself in a jam is when she’s a little bit ahead of herself. Her feet are moving too quickly when she catches the ball, and I thought today she had a much more calm approach to the game. When she does that, she can use her body in a way that there’s just nothing you can do about it. She’s getting better all the time, just like the rest of those guys.
Does Brittney Griner seem to be getting more comfortable?
Other than Australia, there really aren’t a lot of teams in this tournament that have a big, dominant center who likes to play in the lane. She can also shoot jump shots. So, a lot of times Brittney doesn’t have anybody to guard, except somebody smaller and quicker. So she’s done a pretty good job of affecting shots defensively and changing some shots. Little by little, we’re getting really comfortable with Tina (Charles) and Brittney together out there. That first 15 minutes it was Tina versus China. It was unbelievable. She was unbelievable. I don’t know how many ways she scored in the first half. She was really fun to watch.
On playing in her 100th game in a USA Basketball jersey, especially after not making the first two USA teams for which she tried out:
It means a lot, especially not being able to make the teams before to now be talking about having 100 games, participating in 100 games with USA Basketball. It means a lot to me, especially to the people back home in Louisiana.
What are some of your favorite memories throughout your time with USA Basketball?
The 100 games … Croatia. The (2003) 21-and-unders. I had been cut (twice) previously before, and I made that team. I was actually the MVP and won the (USA Basketball Female Athlete) of the Year award. Obviously my first (Olympic) gold medal in 2008 and hopefully one more.
Because of the struggle I had to go through to get on this team, this team is different than any other team, before I made this team, I had made every other team (I tried out for). I probably was the first pick, like everybody was calling my parents to be on their team, and this team was like, ‘No, you’re not good enough.’ And I’m trying to figure this out as a player that’s always been given things, then someone says you can’t have it. Okay, now I have to figure out what I need to do to become a better player. Or you just give up and that’s something that’s not in my character, as far as giving up. So, I had to figure out what it was that USA Basketball needed me to do to be on these teams. And here I am, 100 games later.
Can your team play any better than that on the offensive end?
Yes, we can. We still have a few kinks we need to work out, and a lot of turnovers. We had 13, 14, I don’t know, but anytime we have double-figure turnovers with the players that we have is kind of disappointing because it’s unnecessary.
Once we clean up a few things we’ll have even more (assists), hopefully 50. We broke the record today. So, we need to shatter that record. We’re looking forward to that. We keep talking about peaking. We haven’t reached our peak performance left, so we still got a lot left in the tank.
On scoring 100 points in four of five games:
And E (Elena Delle Donne) didn’t even play today. There’s so many great (players) … (Tamika) Catchings has been getting in and out … there are so many great players doing great things, it’s scary how good this team could become by the gold medal game.
On the number of assists the team had:
That says a lot about how we are playing right now. At halftime, I looked up and saw we had 24, and it’s like you would love that in game, you know. You come into the locker room after a game and coach would praise you for sharing the ball and getting each other involved. To have that halftime is crazy.
What is your mindset now entering the medal round?
In some ways, the mindset stays the same in that we’re just going to use our practice sessions, our shoot around sessions to get better and to continue working on ourselves. At the same time, there has to be a shift, because you can’t make mistakes now. You have to be ready every single game and every team knows that. They’re going to be playing with their backs to the wall as well, and we have to be prepared for that.
On the efficiency of today’s game:
Coach Auriemma is used to being in that position. I think more than any of us is used to being in that position. He has entire seasons with 40-point wins, yet his team goes out and plays as if it’s 0-0 at all times. He doesn’t sugarcoat it. Even the other day, he said, ‘I’m not going to tell you to go play the second half like it’s 0-0, because it’s not, but what I am going to tell you to do is you want to feel good about this game when it’s over. You want to feel good about us getting better. So focus on that.’ And when you have a goal like a gold medal, that’s pretty big, right? But then when you recognize that, you identify and kind of rewind and go back to the beginning and focus on the little things that are going to get you there, it becomes easier to stay focused and stay in the moment. Again, a lot of it is coach Auriemma. That’s his life. That’s not our lives, but, that’s his life, and he knows how to coach that.
On playing against your teammate Ramu Tokashiki:
First of all, I’m super happy for her. Last year, she had to qualify, so she left our team to do that. Then this year going into the Olympics, we joked about playing each other, and we knew, both of us, the only way that was going to happen is if she and her team could advance, and they did. I’m really proud of her. I know she’s very excited. They worked really hard to get to this point. It’s fun. I’m excited to play against her. I don’t know how excited she is, but I know we’re excited.
What happened with Elena in pregame?
It was just a minor incident. When I put my hand up, her head went into it. She’s fine. She’ll be all right. It’s not like we needed her today. We really need her for the next round and going into the rest of the tournament.
On the state of the team:
I’m feeling good about this team. I think the best about it is the unselfishness that we have. I think even the turnovers at the end, you want to make the best play. You want to get it to the open person. Sometimes the open person is not there. I feel like we’re playing at such a high level right now. We have definitely gotten better from the first game that we had together in LA against the (USA) Select Team. Every single game, every single practice, we’ve gotten so much better, moving the ball really well. A couple of games ago, we talked about the defense and just not being a good rebounding team. I feel like the last couple of games, we’ve really focused on that and have done a much better job on that end.
How does it feel to be 5-0?
It’s been great. I think we’ve been getting better every single game. We’re looking forward to going to the bigger venue, looking forward to the next three games and we’re just going to go out and play hard.
How were you able to dominate the interior scoring?
Just individual pride. I think each of us individually want to every game bring out what we are known for, and I think particularly, B.G. (Brittney Griner) and myself were able to do that, including Syl (Sylvia Fowles) on the defensive end and what she’s able to bring in finishing around the basket. So, I think game by game, you are seeing more players bring out what you know them for.
On holding China to 8-of-26 from 3-point:
I think all tournament we’ve been doing a great job on the defensive end, picking up the intensity. In the second half, you don’t want to get complacent. You still want to have that sense of urgency like you do when the score is 0-0.
Are you feeling pressure as you head into the quarterfinals?
No. I actually learned from coach Auriemma, pressure is when someone tells you to do something and you can’t do it. This is a situation that we’ve been able to do. We won five gold medals in a row. So, going into the next game, we’re just going to be extra motivated, because you want to get that sixth one.
But still not taking anyone for granted?
For sure not taking anybody for granted. You have respect for every single team that we go out there for. We prepare the same way for every single team – wake up, film, go over what they are going to do, get the scouting report.
Are you anxious to see what this group can do moving into the knockout round?
I’m kind of anxious, yeah. I know what we can do. Once we get together and get on the same page, it’s going to be unbelievable. These next few games are going to be awesome.
On the game:
We started off the game really well on the defensive end, getting stops and running out in transition. That was a big part of our game today – getting boards, getting deflections and kicking it up the floor for easy baskets.
On playing China, where she played. Are you seeing any familiar faces:
I saw them after our first game, actually, and I got to talk with a couple of my players and actually my coach is on the coaching staff as well. So, it was fun just to see them and talk with them a little bit. I just got done taking a photo with two of my teammates from overseas and our coach – Shao Ting and Gao Song.
On the USA’s assists record:
We were really determined after playing so well in the first half to continue that pace, starting the second half. Our first six, seven baskets were assisted, and we just continued on that pace. It’s just a really fun atmosphere when we’re all moving the ball like that. To be part of history like that is really special, especially for this team because we enjoy it so much.
Are you looking forward to seeing how much the team can improve in the next round?
Every game we have an opportunity to do something a little bit better, be a little bit tighter here, to communicate a little bit better and to compete. Every team that’s going forward at this point is here for a reason. We can’t relax, lose our focus at all. We want to play great basketball. Our days together are limited. We’re getting toward the end here. We want to enjoy and take advantage of every time we are on the court together.
On the USA’s 40 assists:
… Especially as point guards, I know me and Sue were really excited about that. We were keeping track. People were saying, when we came out (at halftime), we have 24 assists, and we just wanted to keep getting as many as we can, because that’s a fun way to play and it’s the right way to play the game. Second half, I thought we did well. Could have done better in a couple of areas, but overall, we still were able to move the ball and get to that 40 assists.
Does that show how unselfish this team is?
I think it’s just because everybody is involved, and then you see the scoring on the whole chart is everybody is involved, everybody is contributing and everyone is doing what they do really well. When we move it like that, then it’s tough. Somebody is getting an open shot. Sometimes your job is to create, to bring two (defenders) or bring another player and then make the extra kick. And, I thought for the most part today everybody did that. Everybody was making the extra pass and we were able to get some really good looks.