Additional Quotes: USA 97, Panama 56
Jeff Van Gundy (USA head coach)
Were you happy with the fast start in the first quarter?
Well, we set a better tone today with our starters than we did in our exhibition against the Dominican Republic. Our defense was good early. There’s a lot to improve on, but not as much time to really do it. So, we just have to gather ourselves. We are playing a true road game tomorrow against Uruguay, and we’re looking forward to it.
Was there anything that surprised you from the game tonight?
No, I think the guys did what they’ve been doing for the last week. They really played hard. They shared the ball exceptionally well. Our shooting was up and down and our ball handling was a little erratic at times, but for the most part, I thought we did some good things.
Were you happy with the defensive effort?
That was a good tone. I think we have the potential to be an outstanding defensive team. I thought, for the most part, we guarded exceptionally well.
What will be key in tomorrow’s game against Uruguay?
We’re going to have to play a great game because they are an outstanding team. Our low post defense is going to have to be good. We’re going to have to be better against the zone. They zone, a lot, and we were not that efficient against the zone tonight. We’re just going to have to compete really hard, and that’s what you have to do on the road to try to get a win.
How did it feel to get the first game out of the way?
There is an excitement in the locker room. I think we set a good tone for the rest of the competition. That being said, Panama is a tough team and they definitely highlighted some areas where we could improve. I know coach Van Gundy is going to push us to improve each day, with each repetition, so we’re excited to have this one under our belt and we’re even more excited to take that next step forward.
How important was the quick start the team got out to and the defensive play that limited Panama’s offense?
It’s important to get off to a quick start against these teams. One, they’re talented and if they get a lead on you they know how to hold it. Two, the time is different in games like these, it’s a little shorter so you don’t really as much time to mess around with the game, you’ve got to have your foot on the gas from the jump ball.
Next up is the host country, Uruguay. What kind of atmosphere do you expect?
I imagine it will be a great one. Uruguay is a very talent team. We’ve watched a lot of film on them and they’re deep, they have a lot of talented players, it’s safe to say they’re going to draw a big home crowd. Uruguay has been a great host nation and we’re excited for the environment we’re going to play in.
Coach Van Gundy has been preaching defense, and the defense tonight really seemed to limit Panama especially in the first quarter. How important is defense going to be for this team?
It’s huge. We can’t control whether or not our shots always fall but we can control our defensive effort and intensity. That’s something we really tried to make a point of this game, if we want to be successful we have to make a point of that every game from here on out.
Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)
How important was the fast start today?
It was very important. It let us set the tone and showed we are here to compete in this tournament. We didn’t want to come out slow. We wanted to come out and make a statement. Not to take anything away from Panama, but I think it was just important for our group. We just got together a week ago, and we are learning together, so it was important that we found a way to come out quick and set the tone.
Did you feel your defensive effort took Panama out of its offensive rhythm?
Yeah, I think our pressure was good. It helped get them out of their rhythm. Kendall (Marshall) starting out on the ball at point guard, pressing up - it all just went from there, protecting the paint, contesting jump shots, everything. It was something we have been going over and working hard, getting up into our man, applying ball pressure. We started off really good doing that and have to continue it the next two games, starting again tomorrow.
How important is outside, 3-point shooting to this team?
3-point shooting is going to be very important, as well as defense, but that outside shooting will help us offensively create leads and separate ourselves. Those types of things are backbreakers, when you hit a tough 3 or a clutch 3. We have pretty good shooters, and then we also have guys that can get to the basket, finish and create and set up wide open 3-pointers for our shooters. It’s going to be important. I know FIBA, the European game and down here, there are a lot of good 3-point shooters that compete int these competitions. I think every team will try to shoot 3’s, but we have to be lights out and focused, too.
What are the early thoughts on tomorrow's game against Uruguay?
I think it’s going to take everything, honestly. Us, as a team, being on the same page offensively and defensively. They have home court advantage. Obviously, we are here in their city in their country, and they will have the support of their fans and everyone behind them. It’s going to be a tough game, but we just have to stay focused and stay together and do what we do.