Additional Quotes: USA 87, Senegal 67
USA head coach Dawn Staley (University of South Carolina)
I thought it was a really competitive game, from start to finish. It took us a little bit longer to gain a respectable lead, and that was … you have to credit Senegal for coming out and putting us back on our heels. But, the game is 40 minutes, and the beautiful thing about our team is we got depth, and that is the thing that we will have to utilize throughout this entire World Cup. And fortunately for us tonight, our depth was the thing that allowed us to open the game up and win the game.
On the USA’s 28 assists:
The 28 assists on 36 baskets is pretty much indicative of a USA Basketball team in which everybody just wants to win. It’s probably the most selfless basketball that you’ll ever see. It is a collection of players who, they want to make everybody look good. I thought that we gave up a couple of shots, and we probably could increase those numbers a little bit more. But, we are a work in progress. We are playing and practicing and prepping all at the same time. I just told Elena (Delle Donne) that we’ve had more actual games than we have had practices, and that’s what you saw out there on the floor. Sometimes it didn’t look as clean as we would like it to be, but we are a work in progress.
On A’ja Wilson:
A’ja Wilson is surrounded by some great players. She has got people that she can look left and right and front and back to see who have been very successful at this level. And, I think she is playing off of playing with some of the best people in the world. So, you can’t really look bad when you are surrounded with so much greatness.
On the USA’s younger players:
Again, anytime that you play with the likes of Elena, sitting next to me, as well as Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, they are going to raise the level of play. They are going to prep you for anything that you may see out there on the floor. And when all of them came in, they made an impact on the game, all of the newbies. Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson, Morgan Tuck, all the players that it’s their first time playing on this stage, I thought they played pretty remarkable, considering not having very much experience playing here. They must continue to do that for us to be successful.
On Senegal and the rise of talent on basketball teams in Africa:
I was fortunate to be a part of the Rio (de Janeiro Olympic) Games, and we actually, Senegal was my scout in Rio. They are, although ninety percent of that team is still a part of this World Cup team, you add a player here and there, their point guard, number seven (Bintou Diémé) makes them go. She got injured. I talked to her in France after our game, and I just said that she is an integral part of their success. But the coaching staff changed, and it’s nothing against the old coaching staff, but this team is very, very disciplined. They are committed to their sets. They cut hard. They keep you on your toes on both sides of the ball. So, Africa basketball is definitely moving in the right direction. They feel really good about themselves. They performed tonight. But, you got to continue that. You can’t get happy playing the USA team. They got to play China, they have to play Latvia, and they got to bring that same kind of effort to continue to move the needle.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
How do you switch gears so quickly, from playing in the WNBA Finals to here?
You just do. You just kind of have to. We are all in the same boat in that we just finished a season. For some of us, it went a little bit longer than others. But other than that, we are all in the same boat. We have our roles on our own WNBA teams, and then when we join the USA team, it all changes, and you have to adjust quickly and on the fly and just try to make it work as quickly as possible. But for all us that got here, you just flip the switch. You take the WNBA hat off, put the USA hat on and go from there.
Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics)
Senegal played a great game. They came out super strong, very aggressive, and we were kind of able to just play our way through the game. Like Dawn said, we have a lot of depth, and the game is forty minutes long, so we are able to kind of wear teams out with our depth. But, we are still getting used to playing together. It has only been a couple of days with the entire team together, so we just got to continue to get better every day.
Inaudible question about a timeout:
I guess it was just to stay calm. We know that teams come out with a ton of energy against us, try to take away passing lanes, and sometimes we get a little overcomplicated. The way we play in the WNBA, it’s looking for so many different things in an offense, and we kind of just have to slow down and simplify the game. We knew they were pressuring so much that we just could go back door, or get a post-up, or attack the pressure. So, we kind of just had to simplify and get used to one another.
On why she chose to play with USA Basketball despite dealing with an injury:
There is no more fun team to play with than USA Basketball. It’s the most selfless, beautiful basketball you see. I have greats to look up to, and greats who have played through pain. Even Sue (Bird), coming off of this season. I’m sure she is hurting, but she is here, too. And that’s what USA Basketball is about, just showing how committed you are trying to give your best whenever you can. And, fortunately I was able to do that.
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
On the game:
It was good. It is really good to come out and play in the first competitive game. We had a chance to play against Senegal last week. They are a great team, and I’m glad we were able to get some great competition and earn the win.
They came out very aggressive, so it was hard to deal with in the very beginning. I think that we did a good job of kind of playing to our own pace, and we were able to kind of drag out the game towards the end.
On the USA’s next game:
We play China next. We still have to watch some film on them, but we know that they have a really great team. A lot of our players have experience playing in China, so we are familiar with some of their team, and we know we are going to have to match their big bodies.
Are you going to fight to win this World Cup?
Oh yeah. I think everyone is going to fight. It’s never easy winning the World Cup. I’m just glad we got our first win.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
What are your thought on your rivals?
I think it is a tough group. We played a friendly against Senegal, but one quarter of our team wasn’t here. Latvia and China, they had a tough game earlier today. Everybody wants to beat the United States. So, it doesn’t really matter who it is, but (we) just have to come out and be prepared for them.
A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces)
How did it feel in your first World Cup outing?
It felt great, really just embracing my role and the players that I am around, some of the greats of the game, and I’m just taking it all in. I had a lot a fun, and I’m just taking it step-by-step, game-by-game.
Do you think the U.S. took a bit to adjust to Senegal’s pressure?
They came out really aggressive, and I feel like being the USA, we are going to get everyone’s A game all the time, constantly. So, we have to be ready. But, we settled down, and they settled down as well, and then we started to play our game.
How important was it for you to try and lead the team?
It wasn’t something I was going in there to do. I’m just in there trying to create things for myself and for my teammates as well and just do what I can. Do what I can, whether that is getting to the free throw line, or getting a rebound, or blocked shot or steals. Just doing what I can to keep the energy going, because we have a great starting five. I don’t even know who could beat that starting five. So, I’m just trying to come off the bench and not really have a drop off.