Additional Quotes: USA 74, Canada 68
USA head coach Dawn Staley
I thought it was a bad half that we played. Obviously, we couldn’t get the shots to fall, but coming out of the locker room at halftime, we knew that it couldn’t get any worse. I think we just needed to stay the course. We have players that are poised. They’ve been in these situations before, and, obviously, we found our rhythm a little bit and got control of the game.
What were your thoughts on Napheesa Collier’s performance tonight?
What I saw in Napheesa is what I’ve known Napheesa to be. I had the opportunity to coach Napheesa in 2015 (U19), so there is just some familiarity with her and with A’ja (Wilson). Obviously, the group that was out there gave us what we needed. Did I think about subbing? Yes, I did think about subbing, but they were playing so well together that I figured I would just let them finish the game out. Some games are going to be like that, and then there are some games where you need to insert other players. But, with what we have here at USA Basketball and that culture, everybody just wants to win. I thought the five that were out there gave us the best opportunity to do that tonight.
Does a close game like tonight help evaluate players opposed to wide-margined outcomes?
It does help. Everyone is used to seeing us blow teams out, and, obviously, that didn’t happen tonight. This helps build chemistry. It helps me as a coach to see who we can call on. I know that we have an experienced group on the bench. I didn’t fret the score. I was very sure that we were going to make a run. I was very sure that we would get back in the game, and it was depending on who the players were. I don’t really look at names or numbers. We are looking for a group of production. We got it in certain spots throughout the game, but I just thought that at the end of the game, we needed to stick with the group that was out there.
Was the first quarter deficit maybe due in part to this team still meshing as a group?
Well, we didn’t anticipate having such a quarter. We’ve been shooting the ball pretty good in practice and the intrasquad scrimmage, but to play against someone else – obviously, it took us a while to get going. I’m glad we got this opportunity to play a tight game. I’m glad we got to see who can do what. When you have a roster of 14 or 15 players, and I believe all but two of them played in the first quarter, there’s no continuity. You’re going to have some of that. I told them at halftime that we’re probably going to tighten up a little bit to go win the basketball game, so some people may not play as much as they want to, but this is USA, and some people may have to play those roles for us come the World Cup.
How important were the free throw trips in the second half run?
That’s what A’ja (Wilson) does. If you look at what she did in the WNBA, I think she got to the free throw line the most of any player, so she was in line with what she does, which is draw fouls. Obviously, she does get buckets, but the stat I’m proud of is the double-digit rebounds, which is rare for her.
How important has it been to have Tina Charles and Nneka Ogwumike’s leadership on this team?
Our camp wouldn’t be as productive without Tina and Nneka. They’ve been around the block. They’ve been WNBA MVPs. They are ones we will lean on, with or without those playing in the WNBA Finals. They are respected players and players that have played at the top. They are two of our country's best players, and we need to follow their lead.
Napheesa Collier (University of Connecticut)
How was it playing in front of the home crowd in Connecticut tonight?
Here in Connecticut, we have the best fans, and the fact that we had some fans here tonight is a testament to that. It’s such an honor to play with these girls. I mean, this is the “Rookie of the Year” right here (pointing to A'ja Wilson), and we have so many good people on this team that I just feel blessed to be here.
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
Was that a good test for the team?
Oh, no doubt. That was a great test. The first quarter wasn’t exactly ideal. But, coach Dawn’s composure helped us maintain ours. But, I also really liked that we were able to get some of the new faces out there to develop the chemistry that we need. Today was a really good test. I’m really happy we won, but I’m happy with how we won. It’s also how we won that we should be proud of.
Next up is a game on Sept. 10 against Japan. You’ve played a few Japan teams in the past, what do you think you’ll see from that team?
I think we’re probably going to see a little more structure, as far as far as their offense goes. Maybe sometimes there’s a little bit of nerves. People sometimes aren’t running the offense the way it should be run, because coach Dawn has some good stuff. I think there will be more maturity when it comes to execution, but we’ll have to be paying much more attention to detail on defense, because they run and cut.
On her role in the USA’s comeback:
I think, we were down, we needed stops and rebounds, and I think we did that. And, then we ran in transition, and we just kind of chipped away slowly but surely. My teammates set great screens, I was open and I was able to knock some shots down. It was a great team effort.
How does this help as the team is trying to develop chemistry and is still to be finalized?
You know, it’s tough. There are a lot of people. We are not used to playing with each other, so our chemistry is a little bit slow. But, I think a win like this and we build on that, it is great for us. It’s tough. Everyone is so talented, and these teams that we are playing have played together for years. So, as long as we continue to do the little things, we will be in good shape.
Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun)
On the USA’s comeback:
It felt great. I think a lot of times with USA (Basketball), we don’t expect to be down, and we were down quite a bit. So, for us to come together with a new team, new people, this is our first game playing together, I think that says a lot about the people we have on the team. I think this game gave us a lot to learn from. And, it’s better that we got the win and get to learn from it than the loss. So, as long as we see what we need to improve on and all of us know we just have to dig in and make sure we come out with a win no matter what.
A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces)
Yeah, it was just finding our rhythm. In the first half, we were still trying to feel each other out and get a groove in the game and get a feel for the game as whole with one another. When we were subbing people in and out, we had people playing with different people that they might not normally play with during practice, so it was tough. But, once we came out in the second half, shots started falling, we picked it up on defense, and things just kept going well for us and we willed our way to a win.
How comfortable was it being out there with Las Vegas Aces teammate Kelsey Plum during the run?
It was definitely pretty comfortable. We understand each other, because we just got done playing with one another. So, it was familiar. It was also the plays that coach was drawing up. It was kind of like taking me back to college. I just felt more at home, and I felt more calm in situations, and that’s always the best position to be in when you’re playing.