Additional Quotes: USA 66, Italy 49
USA head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio (Pittsburgh)
What do you take away from this win against Italy?
We knew coming in that this was going to be a different game than when we saw them previously. They had two new players that give them great depth. We knew they were going to come out with a lot of energy in front of their home crowd, and we didn’t respond. In that first quarter, we struggled offensively. We realized, at that point, that we were going to have to grind this one out.
We had to try to pick up our intensity defensively and make adjustments to what we were trying to do offensively. We were just becoming very stagnant. They did a good job of mixing up their defenses from man to zone at different times, and we became stagnant trying to recognize those instead of getting into a flow offensively. So, we tried in the second half to come out and play with a little more aggressiveness attacking them. We wanted to go inside. We wanted dribble penetration. Ball movement, I thought we needed to make that extra pass, because going into the half, I thought we were settling a lot with the three.
So, it was about making adjustments when you are struggling shooting the basketball. From the perimeter, we had to find a way to score, and so we had to get to the free throw line and we had to attack inside. I thought our players responded in the second half. We just had to chip away, chip away and continue to grind it out, because it was a battle. It was a great test for us coming out of pool play.
What can you say about the play of Joyner Holmes and Crystal Dangerfield?
Joyner Holmes has been so impressive since we started this tournament, and I love having someone like that to insert into the game to provide instant energy. Defensively, she is aggressive. Offensively, she’s making plays to rebound the basketball, and it’s something that our players are feeding off of. This was the first game that we didn’t get off to a great start. I thought Joyner was impressive in a lot of ways at both ends to give us a lot of energy. She made plays, especially when we needed it.
Crystal, she is a crafty little point guard. She is so good at finding the open player, at making plays, and I think she has grown into a better leader and into a better playmaker because she has a lot of responsibility in her position of being a playmaker, a point guard, scorer, running offense, dictating tempo defensively. As a starting point guard, that’s a lot of responsibility, so I thought tonight, when we needed her, she stepped up defensively. She was able to put pressure on their guards. She made plays. She hit some key baskets and got to the free throw line. I thought, in the second half, she really stepped up her game. Any time you have your point guard have nine assists, it’s a great night.
Bella Alarie (Princeton/Bethesda, Md.)
How was the game playing against Italy in front of their own crowd?
I think we had a lot going against us here playing against Italy here in Italy. They had a lot of fans out there cheering for them. It was a loud gym, but in the end, our team really came together. After the half, we talked about it and said we needed to push through and just keep playing. We found that spark, we got the lead, and that’s when we kind of picked our energy up and got the win.
Was anyone in particular the spark today?
Joyner (Holmes) came in and with her athleticism and her energy, she just got rebounds, was on the boards, getting and-ones and really was just picking up everyone’s energy. I think we fed off that really well.
What are some things to work on getting into the knockout rounds?
We started slow today. Going into this next round, it’s win to keep going. We need to come out with a lot of energy and intensity every game, and not let slow starts keep the game close.
Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.)
How was the team able to pull away for the win?
We just believed in each other and believed in our coach. We made sure to huddle after every mistake, every turnover, every free throw, that way we could talk about what we were going to do. We just stuck together.
How did the team work around foul trouble today?
The people that came off the bench came in with a spark. They continued what we were doing on the court, and that helped us a lot.
How are you feeling heading into the knockout rounds?
It’s an amazing accomplishment to finish first in our pool. Hopefully this gives us some motivation, and we can stick to what we have been doing and continue to play our game. We have to continue to play how we play and not worry about anyone or anything else – don’t pay attention to what others are saying, just stick to our 12 and play USA Basketball.
Joyner Holmes (Texas/Cedar Hill, Texas)
You brought a lot of energy to the game – was that your focus tonight?
I knew the team we were playing had that home court advantage. They had everything on their side, so I knew we had to come with it. We had some post players in foul trouble, so I wanted to make sure I came with it in terms of energy on offensive and defensive sides. So, that’s what I brought tonight.
How did the team work around foul trouble today?
Mainly, you just have to stay encouraged – on the bench or off the bench. Just stay encouraged. When you get in, you have to do something different that somebody else isn’t doing. When you get in there, don’t continue to make the same mistakes or do what others may be doing wrong, and don’t do what the coaches are saying not to. She was telling us to flash to the high post, so I was just trying to get open looks and assist and rebound the ball as well as I could to give us some second chances.