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Nneka Ogwumike

Additional Quotes: USA 102, Latvia 76

  • Date:
    Sep 25, 2018

Game Story
Box Score
• Photo Gallery

USA head coach Dawn Staley (University of South Carolina)
On resting Sue Bird and Elena Delle Donne:
We don’t want to chance anything. If they’re not feeling 100 percent, we think we have enough in the tank to have them sit one game.

Did having Brittney Griner back on the court help the team’s defense?
Absolutely. Having Brittney back, having a practice under our belt where we made them aware of certain things. I thought our third quarter was by far the best quarter in which we exhibited the team that we want to become on the defensive side of the ball. Hopefully, that’s a prelude to what we will be in the quarterfinals.

On Brittney Griner:
We were actually going to sit her out one more game, so she had another two days of rest, but Brittney wanted to go. And when a player … a player knows her body more than anybody, so it was great to have her out there. She’s been wanting to play. I talked to her last night after dinner, and she was like, ‘don’t listen to the trainer. I’m ready to go.’ So, right before the game I asked Ed (Ryan), our trainer, whether or not she could go. He felt good about her going. So, she got the nod.

(Question inaudible)
On this team I think we have five or six Olympians. A couple others that did not retire got injured and prevented us from having as many Olympians. But, at the same time, we have a lot of great players in our league, especially some young players, and I count it as a blessing in disguise to give them this experience just in case. Because, we don’t know what it’s going to look like in two years. So, I’m happy this team is getting the experience that they have never had, which in the future helps USA Basketball out. 

How do you keep the intensity up tonight, knowing you were already into the quarterfinals?
We gave up close to 80 points a game. That can jolt you into seeing the big picture. And the big picture is that if we give up 80, 90 points to teams in the quarters and beyond, it’ll make it really hard for us to win another World Cup. Pointing out where we need to get better on the defensive side of the ball always helps. And then just us making them aware of it, they came out with a little bit better intensity and energy out there on the defensive side of the ball tonight.

Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
On the blend of experience and youth on the team:
It’s a beautiful thing when you see the new faces coming in through the USA Basketball organization. Everyone’s doing a great job. I think we have about five first-timers, and I think they’re following the vets. We have great leadership with Diana (Taurasi) and Sue (Bird). Just having them here makes everyone really comfortable, knowing the experience that they have.

On tonight’s game:
We are really happy with the result. We wanted to come out and have a really good defensive effort, and I think we did that.

What makes Brittney Griner so special?
Brittney’s special just in her size. Her length, how gifted and focused she is, being able to finish with both hands. How she’s able to move down low. She’s very selfless. She wants to learn, she wants to get better. And if anyone knows how special it is to have her around every day, that’s Diana Taurasi. They make a great team.

Are you excited now to see what growth is left in this team?
We have a lot of room for growth. But, again, just having Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi) here, we know that the experiences that they’ve had, and them being on this stage, they are going to lead (us to) a win.

On the game:
We just definitely wanted to key in on the defensive effort. We know that there have been a couple of loopholes in previous games. So, coming in, we just wanted to limit certain players, the key players that they had on Latvia, and just give a great, conscious effort on the defensive end. 

On having Brittney Griner back in the line-up:
Having Brittney Griner is just – I think it just gives us that boost of confidence going into the games. They way how it feels to have Diana (Taurasi) and Sue (Brid) alongside of you. She’s such a great player, a great person and she is dominant down low, and we are just going to keep feeding her. 

What does the team take away from this going into two days with no games?
The next two days, I’m looking forward to this day off, be able to enjoy Tenerife. And then, we are going to get back to it in practice, and I look forward to whoever it is that we play, just getting to that goal that we want to accomplish.

Layshia Clarendon (Connecticut Sun)
On her performance tonight, with seven assists and four steals:
That’s what I just try and do. We all have our roles on this team and what we bring, and so for me, it’s kind of the Energizer Bunny, also the point guard. And so, I just try to bring that effort and tenacity on defense, and just always be swinging and fighting and always hustling after the ball. We had a much better team effort tonight on defense, so credit (to my teammates). Sometimes somebody tips the ball and you get the steal. They weren’t all outright steals. So, just a good night overall for the team.

What does the team take away from this going into two days with no games?
Just getting better, obviously. We wanted to hold them to a better fourth quarter than that, when we gave up like 26 points. But, we are getting better every day. We’re only together for a week or so, and then we start playing games, and so it’s tough to build that chemistry. We have a lot of new faces and new people this year. So, just continuing to build and get better, because the real ones are going to start and the medal rounds are coming up. 

Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
Are you happy with today’s results?
Yes, I’m very happy with the results today. Now it’s really go-time. It’s go-time now.

Are you thinking about the next game?
We’ll enjoy this win tonight, and then move on the next day and start looking towards who we’re playing next.

What is the secret to the team’s success?
It’s a lot of hard work. There’s a lot of time that everybody puts in, from players, coaches, staff, it’s a lot of hard work that we put in every single time we meet up. That’s what helps our success.

On playing tonight after sitting out injured the past two games:
It felt good getting back on the court, getting back into the swing of things. It was a good win.

It really feels good to be on the court, get moving around. I came here to play. I don’t want to sit on the bench. It feels great being out there with my team.

How much did you miss not playing those two games?
Oh, I missed it. I missed it. Sitting on the bench is the worst. It’s like being on punishment. It’s like, ‘We’re going to take you out, and we’re going to let you watch your siblings buy candy and toys. But, you can’t get anything.’ That’s how it is. 

How much of an effect did you have on the team’s defense?
I like to think that I have an effect, but it was definitely a joint effort. The other day in practice we worked really hard, everybody being on help side, and today we tried to keep them out as much as we could. I think we did a good job on that. Everybody did. 

Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On the game:
I thought we played pretty solid for most of the game. You know, Latvia is a good team. They played well together. They play an unorthodox style of basketball, where they attack you on every pass, every closeout. I think in spurts we did a really good job of containing them. They are a good team. 

On the USA’s energy:
That was something we have been harping on. We got to get a little bit tougher. We got to play a little bit harder. And I think today that showed in stretches, and that’s why we were able to pull away a little bit earlier than the last two games.

On having Brittney Griner back in the lineup:
It’s huge. Brittney makes such a big difference on the court, on both ends. On the offensive end, she is so dominant, attracts so much attention. And then on the defensive end, it really deters people from even going inside. So, it was huge for her to get back, get a little flow and she will be ready to go now. 

Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun)
On the game:
I think it was a lot better, just the feel for us. Besides when they hit a bunch of 3s in the fourth quarter, we did a really good job defensively. And that’s been the focus this whole week after all of the games, is we have to play better defense. So, I think we were able to do that, which I think is going to help us for the next game.

Do you think the under-construction sign around the USA’s defense was torn down today?
I think it is still kind of up there, because that is still going to be a big focus. But I think we, the last couple of days in practice and in shoot around, we really worked on our help side and making sure that we are in the right places. So, I think we are going in the right direction.

What are you learning from the veterans?
Just to be very talkative, communicate, be in the right spots and the right time, and then even if you mess up, just tell someone, talk to someone, and then you can cover up for each other. So, I think that is the kind of thing I have noticed. And, just to be focused. To be locked in at all times.

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