Additional Quotes: USA 95, Mali 58
USA head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio (Pittsburgh)
What are your overall thoughts on tonight's game?
It's a great start to the tournament. We got contributions from each and every player. There was a lot of energy defensively. Our players stayed in plays and challenged shots. We did a great job on the boards. Offensively, being able to put 95 points on the board was a great sign for this team and a great start to this tournament. This is something that we believed this team is capable of doing, so it was great to see them do it today.
Also, we had 23 assists tonight, so players were sharing the basketball, they were making that extra pass and finding their open teammates. We pushed the ball in transition. We were scoring in multiple ways, which is what this team needs to do to be successful, so it was great to see that tonight.
I thought Alecia Sutton got off to a great start for this tournament. She was scoring, and was very aggressive in going to the basket. She shot the ball extremely well. Joyner Holmes was a great spark off the bench in the first quarter - just sharing the basketball. She made some great passes, defensively, she rebounded. Overall, it was a great team effort. We got contributions from everyone, so it was a great team win.
How important was the 40 points from the bench?
These players, each and every one of them could be in the starting lineup. That's the difficult part for us, putting the five players on the floor to get us off to a great start. We know we are going deeper into the bench, and players will get minutes throughout the course of the game. But, when you get those types of contributions from your bench, it's so valuable. We have so many players that can be in our starting lineup. It's great to see them embracing their role of being a spark off the bench, and then giving us energy whether that be defensively, scoring, being a playmaker or whatever is asked of them on the floor.
What are you expecting to see from China tomorrow?
Well with China, they play fast. They move the ball well. They are always on the move and they move well with the ball, without the ball. They are aggressive defensively. They do play a different style. That’s something we have to be aware of. We will have to defend their dribble penetration and be able to stay home on shooters, because they are great at catch and shoot from the 3, but also great at freezing the defense. They penetrate and kick very well, so we have to make sure we can stay in place to challenge shots and control the boards.
Kayla Overbeck (Vanderbilt/Newbury Park, Calif.)
How was that first game?
Every single team is going to give us their best because of who we are. Just coming into the tournament, in that first game, you know everyone is going to give their all. I give them credit – they gave us all that they could and we gave them all we could. Obviously, our effort topped theirs today, but they came out swinging. They were ready for us, and we were ready for them, but I just think we got off to a better start and we kept our effort and energy throughout the whole game.
How important was Alecia Sutton’s play today?
I thought ‘Sug’ played amazing today. She put up a lot of points. She was the person we could go to every single time. She was the person that was on fire. She definitely led in that way, too, getting back on defense, working hard as she could to make others work as hard as they could, too. She leads by example, and that was definitely her leading by example tonight. Hopefully she keeps that up the rest of the tournament. Crystal (Dangerfield), being our captain and just being our floor leader and quarterback of every single game – Joyner (Holmes), too, had a really good game. She played with passion and went for every single ball, every single rebound. She didn’t let their physicality mess with her head or anything like that.
Alecia ‘Sug’ Sutton (Texas/St. Louis, Mo.)
You had the hot hand tonight – how were you feeling?
Every time I was open, I stayed focused. I focused on my shot and stayed aggressive. I tried to do that and rebound for the team.
Did you expect Mali to play this tough?
We knew they were going to come out and be athletic. We know everyone is gunning for us, and we know we have to come out and play our game. They came out being very athletic and very competitive. We just had to be compete, too.
How does it feel to get the first game out of the way?
It feels good. Just the first game of the tournament, we are all feeling good. I think we feel good about how we played.
What worked well today and what didn’t work well?
I think we worked on passing the ball, because our assist numbers were good tonight. We worked on defense, which was a little shaky in the first half, but I think that was the only thing we struggled with. We rebounded the ball and we ran our offense. Those were our main things we worked on tonight.
How were turnovers an issue tonight?
We cleaned our turnovers up, a lot. Considering coming into this tournament, in those exhibitions, we had a lot of turnovers. We are working on it in these games, and it was better tonight.
Megan Walker (Monacan H.S./Chesterfield, Va.)
What did the team do to pull away tonight?
Mali came out ready to play. We will get everybody’s best, every night. I think we shared the ball well tonight. We played together as a team and that helped us expand the gap.
Who played especially well tonight?
‘Sug’ (Alecia Sutton) – she knocked down shots when she was supposed to. She was open, and we found her and she hit the shots.
How much did those exhibitions help leading up to this first game?
They definitely boosted our confidence. I think we got a good feel for what this tournament is going to be like. It was a good energy booster, cheering for each other collectively.
What are you expecting to see from China tomorrow?
China, I think they are going to shoot a lot of 3s, so I think we will have to run them off the line. That’s what we are here for, to play the best, to change and adapt to everyone’s play.