Additional Quotes: USA 93, Cuba 62
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Jeff Van Gundy (USA head coach)
We knew Cuba was really big and athletic, and we had trouble with that in the first quarter. And then after that I thought our defense was outstanding over the last three quarters, and we really shot the ball well from 3.
During this classification process what did you think were the strong points of the team and the weak points?
We had lots of different guys participate and so the weakness is that we had a constant turnover of players. But our strength is our defense and our 3-point shooting.
What do you think about this Cuban team in comparison to the Cuban team you faced back in February in the United States?
I thought the game they played the other night against Puerto Rico they deserved to win. (Jasiel) Rivero got cramps with three minutes to go and they were up five, they were outstanding. I think they are much more advanced now than in November.
What was the adjustment between the first quarter and the second quarter defensively?
There was no coaching adjustment, there was more intensity and effort by the players. They did a fabulous job over the last three quarters defensively.
It’s the first time the U.S. men have played here in 27 years, beyond the game what is it you saw from the Cuban players on the court and Cuba in general?
First off, Cuba is a beautiful country. The hotel we stayed at was fabulous, the people were so very nice. And the food we had here, oh my it was good.
Now that you finished the first round of classification the next round gets a little bit tougher with the collection of teams that are advancing. Is USA Basketball planning on playing the same collection of players or are they looking to go to a higher level of player?
We have really good players that are playing right now. We just don’t know who is going to be available. But, the point is we have to play better because the competition does get better.
How pleased were you in the team’s defensive effort in this game? (italicize)
The last three quarters we were outstanding defensively, swarming, they had a size advantage and we overcame that with speed and intensity and passion, and they bounced back well from a rough game in Mexico and a rough start tonight.
How important is the defense to generate U.S. offense?
We think our athleticism and our length on the defensive end are very helpful to us and we’re a big collection of players that haven’t played together a lot. So, on offense it can sometimes be a little clunky. But we know we can defend, so that has to be our strength.
Talk about your scoring and shooting tonight:
As a shooter you don’t really ever do too much different, you just try be in a flow. We got in the arena yesterday, got a practice in, got a feel for the ball, a feel for the arena, and I felt good. And for whatever reason, during USA Basketball I‘ve been shooting the ball well. So, when shots are open I’m taking it even if I miss like 10 in a row, you just keep shooting. Guys find me when I’m open, so I do my job – to make shots.
General thoughts about today’s win over Cuba:
I thought today was great, I think everyone came out with the right mindset and attitude, great passion. Cuba came out strong. We knew we needed this and I think guys understood how important this game was and so I was proud of how everyone approached the game, how we kept fighting and used our speed and depth to our advantage.
What was the difference in the defensive effort after the first quarter?
I thinking just having a sense of urgency. We knew these games are going to be tough. Everyone is playing for more than themselves, for pride in playing for their country, so they’re going to come in and have a lot of energy. For us it is such a great thing to have so many guys you can sub in and out and I think we kind of wore on them and continued playing tough defense and having a defensive mindset, and I think that really worked in our favor today.
Cuba being bigger and stronger, and you spent a lot of time defending Cuba’s big center, Javier Justiz. Talk about the match-up and what you tried to do.
For me, it was just getting in front of him. Then, when he did catch the ball, being strong, physical, staying between him and the basket, and for the most part making him take a tough two or not even letting him get the ball, fronting him and just using my speed, my quickness and my strength to combat how big he was and then box him out every time. But, I had a lot of help, guys digging in. We rotated three bigs on him which was great and we kind of wore him out. But he’s a big guy and a good player.
Trey McKinney Jones
What was the difference between the first quarter and the second quarter?
It came down to defense and just talking. A lot of defense is just communicating with each other so everybody is on the same page. Obviously in the first quarter we gave up too many points, we were on pace to give them over 100, so I think we did a good job of taking their confidence away. If you give teams like these confidence, that’s where it can be dangerous. So it started with the communication and then it went from there.
What was it like playing FIBA basketball? What were the main differences?
Coach told us early on anything you were expecting to throw it out the window. He did a good job of letting us know that whatever you think the rules are or how the officiating will be, expect it to be different. It’s different, it takes some getting used to and obviously these other teams are used to playing this way so it’s a little tough for us. For us to come together in about a week’s times, practice five or six days and come out 1-1, obviously we wanted both, but he mentioned Cuba was the important one so the fact that we got this win was good.
What did it mean to you to have the chance to play for the U.S.?
Oh it is a blessing, and a honor. You’re not just representing a city or a team, you’re representing the whole United States. Not many people get to have the USA on their chest and that’s why the Mexico game hurt so much, you’re not just letting a city down, you’re letting everybody down. So, I think we did a good job of bouncing back. But as far as what it means to me, honestly, it’s just a blessing and a honor, I was happy they chose me and I’m more than willing to come back if they wanted me back.