Additional Quotes: U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team 110, Japan 64 (8/16/16)
What did you say to your team at halftime?
What the heck is a coach going to say? What’s a coach going to say to change that much? We just made a couple of adjustments. We came into the game knowing that it was going to be almost impossible to keep them from getting open shots, that’s how good they are. Their offense is as good as anything I’ve ever seen in terms of how quickly they move the ball, and how quickly they move themselves. I mean, they play a such a fast pace. So, we had like four or five different things that we wanted to do, and we tried a couple of them in the first half, and they didn’t go over so great and so at halftime we settled on one thing that we wanted to do defensively. We switched more on the screen rather than when you’re trying to manipulate it a little bit. You know how coaches get, they get real fancy like, ‘Hey let’s show them this look and let’s show them that look and let’s show them this look.’ Finally, maybe D, looked at me and said, ‘How about we give them a look that works?’ I guess, I don’t know. And then they did the rest, obviously. We’ve had great ideas at halftime before that didn’t turn out this good. And then when you shoot the ball the way we shot it, you can’t say enough about the tone D (Diana Taurasi) sets, Diana sets for our team, and most people don’t realize it, and it’s both ends of the floor, defensively, offensively. Once we get into a rhythm on offense and the ball was moving, and different people were getting shots from all over the court, it was fun to watch.
What happened to Sue Bird?
You saw the play. She turned around to go chase the kid on that pass, and she just said she felt something (in her knee). Ed, our athletic trainer, and the doctors just said, ‘Let’s just let it go for the rest of the half and then look at it tonight and tomorrow morning and see what happens.’
Is Maya (Moore) okay?
Yeah, Maya’s okay. Maya played great in the second half. Her defense was unbelievable in the second half, and usually when Maya plays defense like that her offense goes crazy, she starts taking over games at times and she did that.
Was defense a major theme in your halftime talk?
Yeah, this isn’t necessarily like college where you can make your players do what; you want them to do just by yelling at them. Like your own kids when you’re raising kids. You just raise your voice, and you think that’s getting your point across and sometimes it does. With these guys, it’s more of they understand. So, we just said look, this is how we’re going to play defense, this is where we’re going to go with the ball, this is how we’re going to attack them. We’re going to take away this, this and that, and then let’s run with it, and then they did the rest. They were unbelievable in the second half. Remember we were up 10. They cut it to four in the first three minutes, so in the last 17 minutes of the game, was pretty amazing. That was pretty amazing brand of basketball in that 17 minutes against a really, really good team.
Japan kept things pretty tight in the first and then you guy put it away in the second half:
When we watched video they really resembled the old Phoenix Mercury team where they just get it out of the basket and go. They have great players, and we didn’t expect this game to be easy at all. Number seven, Tokashiki, and all those players, we’re familiar with. The second half was more playing off our defense, trying to lock down, create tougher shots for them, and then play off our defense.
Is it rare that teams try to run with you guys?
Yeah, they’re trying to get the possessions up. We see teams trying to create difficult situations for us, trying to tire us out, but the great thing about our team is that we have 12 great players that coach Auriemma can kind of play with different lineups, different matchups, and it kind of works in our favor.
You guys had an 8-0 run to end the half and you got the last four points, how big was that to get the momentum going into the half?
We definitely needed that momentum, because they had crept in there within four, or something like that, so we needed to gain some momentum going into the half, and it kind of capitulated us into getting a better lead in the second half.
Elena Delle Donne
About being in the medal round:
Yeah, we were watching the Australia game, it’s just such an eye opener. Anytime can be an upset. Everybody’s going to give you their best game, so you just have to be prepared.
Has this been awesome to be a part of?
This has been so much fun, to be a part of this incredible team. Just everybody uplifts one another. Someone new steps up when we need them the most, and it’s just been a blast so far.
What’s it like playing with Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi?
It’s amazing. I grew up looking up to them so much, and now to suit up next to them, it’s really special to me.
What is it about this team as to why it’s been so successful?
I think the biggest thing is the depth, and any player being to step up any night. I think there are a lot of great teams here, but I don’t think there are any team that has 12 incredible players like we do. And the depth can really wear people out.
Do you feel the pressure not to lose?
Of course (laughs). I feel the pressure to win. It doesn’t even feel like pressure, because pressure comes from being asked to do something you’re not capable of doing. And we’re very capable. We just have to come out, be prepared and play with all the effort we have.
Is this as good as this team can be?
I think there’s always room to improve. We do want to peak at the right time. So, a couple more games, that’s when we need to peak, at the right moment. The biggest thing is being prepared for that next team. Every team throws something new at us, and we just have to be ready for it.
What is it about the USA Basketball Women’s National Team program that it has been able to sustain such a high level of success through the years?
I think it’s the players demanding excellence out of one another and showing you the ropes each and every year. That’s the biggest thing that B.G. (Brittney Griner), Stewie (Breanna Stewart) and I have learned as rookies. Just the mentality of USA Basketball and the focus it takes every single day. Not just game days, but in practice, in film, everywhere. You have to have that laser focus, and the older players teach us so well.
On the first half:
Japan is here for a reason. They run very well, and they move the ball in transition and everybody and shoot on their team. It wasn’t (a) fluke why they (were) here, but I think we have a complete 12 that can go out and step up on the floor for us (on) any given day, and I think that was the separation.
What did the team talk about at halftime?
Just continue to do the things that we (were) doing well – running, getting in the paint, getting good shots – but make sure we get stops on the other end of the floor.
What made them a difficult matchup in the first half?
Just their running. Their speed in transition and us having to find all of the shooters, because everybody can shoot in transition.
Do you have a preference who you play, Canada or France?
No. I’m just going to let it flow. I don’t want to call anybody out and say who we want to play, but just get ready for whoever we have to face next.
On her performance:
I just wanted to be more aggressive today. Before the game were a little more – I’m not going to say easy, because none of the games are easy – okay, a little easier. Today was very tough, so I wanted to be more aggressive and just be that person that comes off the bench to help. Geno looks for bench scorers, and I know he likes that. Mone (Seimone) came out and did the same thing, and then everybody else kind of jumped on ship. Delle Donne, so that’s what we need. He’s plays all 12 players. What team in this league plays all 12? Can you think of one? So, I think that is what makes us dominant.
On the USA’s run?
We needed it, you know? The great thing about our team is people like Diana and Sue, they don’t panic. They just know how to play through it, and we follow their lead. I know it was tough chasing No. 7 (Kuriahara). I mean, she would just throw it up. I’m just getting there by the time she threw it up. But, they are a tough team. They don’t stop moving. Their motor (doesn’t) stop running. I don’t know how they have all that gas, but it was tough. I keep telling people, even though the score may look like it was easy. It’s never easy. It’s so hard, these games. So tough.
What did you think of this arena with it being the first time you played here?
It was a little different having not shot or had a walkthrough here at the arena. But, nothing we’re not used to as far as being able to make adjustments on the fly.
What changed from the first to second half when the USA became dominant?
I think it’s just a matter of us wearing teams down. We play at a high level. We try to play at a high level for 40 minutes. It’s not going to happen perfectly. We just tried to do our best to stay with our game plan and be aggressive, and our defense really kick started our offense in the second half where we were able to get a lot of stops in a row and stifling runs that we were trying to make.
Were you surprised the intensity Japan brought or are you expecting that from here on out?
We were not. We’ve been studying them. We’ve been watching them after their showing in pool play. It’s just the way they’ve been performing and fighting and battling. We knew it was going to be a war. We wanted to come out focused and not give any foothold to gain momentum and confidence going into the second half.
Looking forward, what is your expectation of what your opponent will do in the next game?
We don’t know what our opponent’s game plan is, but we know what our game plan will be … efficient, aggressive and unselfish game plan. We’re looking forward to it, but we’re enjoying this one tonight.
Do you guys feel pressure being such a favorite here?
We’re used to playing at a high level. I think the highest expectations are coming from within ourselves in our own locker room, because we know what we’re capable of and we want it. We want this badly, or else we wouldn’t be here. We feel prepared. We feel confident. The pressure comes when you don’t feel prepared.
How many teams try to run up and down the court with you?
Not many, but they made it work for a lot of the game. They ran out of a gas a little bit. That first half, they were running us ragged a little bit. They were making us confused on defense. They were pushing the ball. They were getting whatever they wanted. That’s a credit to them.
A lot of people will see the score and think another big USA win … what are your thoughts?
That’s very unfair, because Japan is a very good team. That’s probably one of the toughest teams I’ve ever played against in the Olympics.
When did you feel you had taken control of the game?
I can’t pinpoint it. But, I know when in the first half and the beginning of the third, I know they were making us work. They were making us uncomfortable. The way they run their offense puts a lot of pressure on you in a lot of places. I don’t think we dealt with that necessarily in the best way. But, we switched a couple things up and went to a more of a switching on the pick-and-roll defenses and kind of used our length and athleticism, and I think that’s when we kind of pulled away a little bit.
Was the intensity level a little higher today since you were pushed?
Some games you got to give a little bit more emotionally. Some games you stay calm, which Is not my strong suit. So, I just let it all hang out. I knew if we were going to go, we were going to go out with it all hanging out. I’m just proud of this team. You look at the score, and you think it was an easy game, but Japan is one of the toughest teams – you ask anyone – in this tournament to play against.
Is there value in getting challenged?
There were a couple timeouts and a couple huddles where we were like, ‘We got to pick this up. This team is playing really well.’ They’re making us uncomfortable. That says a lot about this group. We’re older. We have a lot of experience. We didn’t panic and we just found a way to keep grinding it out, and it worked out for us.
Are you feeling tired as you enter the final stretch?
There is no being tired. Every team has played six games. Every team has played big minutes. Right now, it’s more your mind. It’s mind over matter. It’s are you willing to do the little things, are you willing to really concentrate in the rotations and make the extra pass. If I take anything away from my teammates, everyone is always focused, everyone is always ready to go. That’s infectious amongst all of us.