Additional Quotes: USA 64, Latvia 56
USA head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio (Pittsburgh)
On today’s game:
We are seeing some good things, and we are still getting a lot of good looks. We are just not finishing. I think we struggled to finish – you know, we played three games in three days, and I think this was just an adjustment for our players to get used to this international style.
They play in the college game where it’s hands off the ball handler, and on drives. But, as soon as we put the ball on the floor or as soon as we are handling the basketball, there is physicality happening. There’s an arm bar, there’s hands on. You look at how physical they are in the post, and I’m really believing that this has been an adjustment for us. We played against men before coming over here in order to get ready, and they were quick and athletic. Now, you are playing against these international teams that have so much experience.
This experience has been very valuable. I think that the lack of international experience has led to a lot of our offensive struggles that we’ve had. Most of our players haven’t played at this level internationally. Hopefully, moving forward, we can play through them and turn the corner come tournament time.
How was Latvia able to pull within one point with four minutes left?
They made plays. They hit shots. We tried to make adjustments defensively, and they just ended up hitting shots. We got lost a couple of times defensively, didn’t take care of the ball at times, and they capitalized. One thing I’m proud of our players – down the stretch, again, when this team made a run at us out of a timeout, our team came out and picked up the defensive intensity and were able to go on a run to finish the game and put it away.
You almost think sometimes that it can be too little, too late. We can’t wait until the end. We have to come out playing aggressively from the very beginning. I’m just still searching for our best combinations, because on different nights it has been different players.
Does it worry you that the defense hasn’t been consistent throughout the games?
I think the concern is finding ways to score, because we’ve been inconsistent. These are great players that are capable of so much more, and as coaches, we still have confidence in them to score and shoot the basketball and make plays. We feel good about three wins, but not necessarily how we won. We need to use this as a learning experience going forward. We have one more scrimmage and then there are no more second chances. We’ve talked about how there are no second chances once you get in that tournament. We have to be ready to play and play our best basketball, and we need each player to give us their best no matter how many minutes they play.
Crystal Dangerfield (Connecticut/Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
How important was this exhibition tournament?
It was very important, just trying to get a feel for playing a real game and having the refs here. We were just trying to get everybody to the point where they need to be for the tournament.
How big was Ruthy Hebard down the stretch today?
She was huge. We were able to get the ball inside to her and she finished them. She was able to get some and-1s. She was rebounding well, too.
How was Latvia able to climb back into the game?
They were able to hit shots. I think they got a few offensive rebounds, as well, but they really played hard the whole game.
What are some things that need tightened up before the FIBA U19 World Cup begins?
Making sure that we are still staying strong defensively, especially on the rebounding side of that. Making sure that we are making the easy play, taking care of the ball and scoring. We missed a few easy layups early in the game today, and I think that hurt us.
How have turnovers played a difficult part so far?
We are still trying to get used to the way they call traveling. We are trying to get a handle on that, and then I think we might be able to score more.
Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.)
What was Latvia doing at in the fourth quarter to pull the game closer?
They got the ball to their primary player – number 11 (Mara Mote) – and I give her credit. She is a great player. She took control of the game, and she took advantage of us going below screens. She would pull up for the 3, and that’s what helped them get back into the game.
How was the team able to close the game on that 10-3 run?
We just kept our composure and did what coach told us to do. We hustled for the ball and tried to turn our defense into offense.
How important was this exhibition tournament for the team?
This was very important, just to get used to the atmosphere here, and how people play. Everything overseas – it’s just different from back home. Just getting a feel for things helps us out greatly. Defensively, we still need to work on just having energy the whole game. Our bench has to support us and bring that energy when they are on the court, too. And then, we are doing pretty well in understanding each other’s strengths and getting to where we need to be. Once we figure how to knock down open shots, I think we will be dangerous.
Ruthy Hebard (Oregon/Fairbanks, Alaska)
How was the team able to close out the win?
I just think our defensive intensity at the end of the game, and believing in one other on offense to make plays just helped us close out the win.
Your energy was important down the stretch, do you agree?
I struggled at the beginning to make shots, and that frustrated me. Helping the team by making shots at the end of the game was a big lift for me and the team, so I just tried to do that.
What do you think it’s going to take to put together a full game of high defensive intensity?
We just have to have confidence in each other and boost one another up. Once we do that, we will be able to make plays, and hopefully not be in such exciting, close games.