Additional Quotes: USA 100, China 88
USA head coach Dawn Staley (University of South Carolina)
I thought it was a really good game. Obviously, we couldn’t pull away. But, China is a really good basketball team, and they took advantage of us not being a cohesive unit on defense. That is a thing in which we are a work in progress. We’ll have a day between the next time we play to work on some things.
I’m super proud of our team to be able to pull out a win and put some points on the scoreboard, while the ‘under construction’ sign is up on our defense.
Did you say anything to Breanna Stewart at halftime about being more aggressive?
Yeah, Stewie got into a groove, especially in the third quarter in which she was trailing a lot, and obviously the defense sucked down. Our post players did a great job rim running. They pulled the defense in and left Stewie wide open at the top of the key, and she took advantage of them time and time again. That’s what we’ve come to expect, Stewie-like things, and certainly we needed her to be that way to give us some separation and to widen our lead in the third quarter.
On the quality of the younger athletes on the team:
Obviously, we do have a lot of newcomers on this team. The newcomers are here to play. I know that we have a lot of experience on our team, and I think the good thing about this is that we have a good mix. A mix of pretty good young players who are taking this stage of play by storm. It’s great for them to have such leadership in Sue (Bird), Diana (Taurasi) and Stewie (Breanna Stewart), Tina (Charles). They’re just following their lead.
I like the contributions that A’ja (Wilson) gave us. I like the fact that Layshia (Clarendon) came in and sparked us. It’s great to have three point guards on this roster, because they all give us something a little bit different.
Our young players, Jewell (Loyd), you may not see it in the stat line, but their presence out there on both sides of the ball became somewhat of a calm for us. We played them a lot of minutes together, so that they were able to have some chemistry. Because, sometimes you want to rest some players here and not overplay some players there, but the young ones, we feel very comfortable in allowing them to play a little bit longer than we do some of the veterans.
On China’s No. 15 Xu Han:
She was hard to deal with. One, because she’s so efficient on the inside, and she’s so efficient on the outside. She reads defenses extremely well. We had to make several adjustments to how she was performing out there tonight. Fortunately for us, we have a lot of bigs we can rotate on her to give her different looks. But, you can see that at the end of the day, she had a pretty good day against us.
Layshia Clarendon (Connecticut Sun)
On the game:
We won, so that was good, but we definitely gave up too many points. Dawn was saying after the game, to win a gold medal – that’s not gold medal caliber defense. So, we just want to get better and get some stops, but we’ll definitely will take the win and keep going, keep moving on.
On the USA’s defense:
I think a little bit of it is we are not helping each other, which is kind of hard when you put a team together that hasn’t gotten to play together, that happens all the time … We are learning pretty quickly. The scouts happen really quickly. We play a new team pretty much every day, so we don’t have a lot of time to prepare. So, we are learning on the fly.
How has this first World Cup experience been for you?
It’s been awesome. It is a little bit surreal to work so hard and to have a goal, like a big scary goal, and then to reach it and to be at that point and kind of be living it, it is just kind of like, what do you do when you reach your goals? You just try to enjoy every day and every moment. Me being able to learn from Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi) and just to see the caliber of play.
We won by 12, but it almost feels like we lost, because the standard for USA Basketball is so high. I’m learning a lot of that, and it is kind of cool to be a rookie again, because I’m a veteran in the league. So, I’m just trying to embrace being the newbie and soaking it in – kind of wide-eyed, but also confident because I do think I belong here.
Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm)
What does it mean for you to play for USA Basketball?
It means a lot. Anytime you are associated with USA Basketball it means a lot. It is an honor to represent your country, and you are also playing with the best players in the world. So, it’s truly an experience I will never forget. I kind of get spoiled playing with Sue (Bird) all year in the WNBA, but coming here playing with Dee (Taurasi) and playing with (Brittney) Griner, Nneka (Ogwumike), I learn so much. That’s the best thing about USA Basketball – I’m learning so much.
Do you feel a sense of pressure, and how do you deal with it?
I think in general, when you have USA on your chest and our goal coming into training camp, our end goal is to try to win a gold medal. I think the only pressure we really put is on ourselves. Because at the end of the day, we trust in what we do, we have the ability to do it, we have a great coaching staff, great players. And so we have to play our game, play basketball and trust in what we do.
Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces)
They played really well and made a bunch of tough shots. They really made us compete all the way down to the buzzer, so I think it is a good learning experience for us and the future moving forward. We have to play better defense as a team and lock down a little bit more. But, credit China. They played great.
On the USA’s next opponent, Latvia:
Just one game at a time. I didn’t get a chance to watch them, but I know they are good. They took Senegal to the very end, so it should be a good game, and I’m excited for it.
Can the USA improve?
Of course. You can improve on anything. Coach talked about defense, and keeping your man in front of you, so that’s something we have to work on.
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
They taught us a major lesson today. We need to do better on our defense, especially one-on-one.
So, that’s your main focus to work on, your defense?
We put a lot of points on the board, but we also allowed a lot of points. They’re going to make great shots. They’re professionals, so that was impressed me the most today. We have to be able to adjust better.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
On the game:
It was a hard-fought match. China came out really, really aggressive, keeping it to single digits for most of the game. But, I think it was our third quarter and the mindset that we came out with in the second half that won the game.
On playing against China:
China is one of the best places to play overseas. So, the fact that they’ve improved a lot, it just shows what they’re doing with their country and their league. Everybody’s going to play hard against us.
Does the improvement of the Chinese players have a lot to do with some of the best American players competing in their league?
It’s a culmination of things. I think it’s that. I think it’s the fact that you’re having some of the top WNBA players going over there and playing in China, and kind of showing them the standards that we hold ourselves to and the standards that they need to hold themselves to. Other than that, they just want to win. They want to be competitive, and that’s what they’re doing.
On her third-quarter burst:
I thought that I needed to be more aggressive. There were some things I could have done better.
On the close game:
It just goes to show that we have a lot of work to do, which is good in a tournament like this, because we still have a long way to go.
What is the key to the USA’s success?
Just continuing to play well with one another. We have so many great and talented players on this team that it doesn’t matter who has what stats, just the fact that we win.
Do you feel like you will win this World Cup?
That is the goal. For the United States, we always want gold medals, and we have one more game in pool play, and then we are going to be ready to go after it.
Latvia, obviously, they are a team that plays hard, and I think they are going to give us a tough shot, but we are going to be better than we were today and go into the quarterfinals really strong.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On the tough games so far:
It’s a tough tournament. We always say the World Cup is always the toughest one. Especially for us, coming off a long WNBA season. This is probably the biggest turnover we’ve had on the team in a while. So, each game we’re just trying to get a little bit better, build some more chemistry. These games aren’t easy. Everyone’s good. Everyone’s played together for a long time. So, we just have to stay the course.
On some of the younger players on the team:
They just have so much talent. We talk about Stewie (Breanna Stewart), A’ja (Wilson), Nneka (Ogwumike), they’re so dynamic on the court, and they can do so much. We’ve seen it, obviously, in the WNBA. We’ve seen it in international basketball, but I think they are getting to a different level now.
On Breanna Stewart:
It always takes a while. There always comes a point in your career where, I think you just become very confident in what you are going to do and nothing is going to deter you of that. And, I think she is just so mentally strong. She works on her game. She loves the game. A lot of people play, but they don’t love it. She loves the game. She’s trying to be the best in the world, and you can tell.
They are a confident bunch. They play against Americans in their league all the time, and you could tell today that they just played their game, and they are going to have a great tournament.
What does the USA need to do to not lose?
Every game you have to play like it is your last. You are not promised to win just because you have USA on your shirt. You have to go and win the game. We have to get a little bit better, and I think we will.
A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces)
I really can’t go after that. Coach Staley really said it all. I think it was a good win for us. China is a tough team. So, for us to come out and play the way that we did … on the offensive side it was good, but on defense, we still have work to do. We’re still getting to know each other, obviously. We’re playing against teams who have been together for years. So, for us to get that chemistry back is going to be good for us to get this day in between games to work on things. But, (it was) definitely a good win for us.
What are your thoughts about being out here as one of the youngest players on the team?
I’m definitely just taking away … this is really a sieze-the-moment (thing), really go out there and make the best of this. It’s kind of good being on a team where you’re surrounded by impressive vets. You don’t have your mind focused on certain things – you don’t have to come in and say, ‘okay I have to put up this.’ You just get to play more open and more free. Just to take in the moment. I’m playing against the best in the world and with the best in our league and in the world. It’s a huge thing for me. I’m playing for the USA, and I’m playing alongside the greats of our game. I’m just taking it all in. And also, playing for coach Staley one more time is always a great thing.