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Additional Quotes: USA 93, Belgium 77

  • Date:
    Sep 29, 2018

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USA head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina)
Opening statement:
It was a great game. We were challenged by a really good Belgium team that didn’t want to go away. They played an incredible game on both sides of the ball. I thought our depth really allowed us to open the game up over a forty-mintue period. Congratulations to Belgium and them getting to this semifinals. I’m sure they are a team in which will be right there to medal tomorrow night. 

On the semifinal win:
It was a great game. Belgium is a really good basketball team. If anyone out there is looking to coach, they’re a great example of what you do on both sides of the ball. They work well together. Our challenge was to keep them in front and to try to put a lot of points on the scoreboard, because defensively they truly gave us a run for our money. 

Thoughts on the gold medal game?
We came to win a gold medal. Fortunately for us, we have the depth on our team that got us here, and we look forward to competing for a gold medal tomorrow night. 

On the play of Diana Taurasi:
Diana (Taurasi), this is the type of situation which she thrives on. And she delivers, almost always. She has an impact like this on the game. Whether it’s shooting the ball the way she did, or distributing. She came up with big plays offensively and defensively, getting deflections and steals. That’s what you want a player like Diana to do in these types of situations. 

On the 3-point shooting by the USA team tonight:
I think we take what the defense gives us. We tried to go inside early on, and they would collapse. So once we started moving the ball, it created open shots for Diana, for Sue, for all the players who hit outside shots. That was a team in which it was kind of a chess match to see who could outfox one another. I thought our coaching staff did a great job of getting suggestions out there in how we wanted to defend. And from an offensive standpoint, there is no other general in the game like Sue Bird. Sue Bird takes care of the offensive end to make sure we’re getting in the right things to make us look good out there on the floor. 

How does the USA stay so competitive year in and year out?
It’s the players. We have commitment from our players. It’s a large pool of players, and a lot of them don’t get the opportunity to play because Sue sticks around, this is her fifth World Cup, and Diana Taurasi, they stick around. That creates success when you have that kind of continuity with the core players. For the USA teams, it usually means we’re going to be very successful. 

On playing Spain or Australia:
What we’ll know is we’ll get a great team. A team that had a long, difficult road to get to the gold medal game. You know, Spain being here in Spain, obviously, will bring a huge crowd to the game, and we look forward to that environment. But also, Australia, who’s been our nemesis throughout international competition, and they want to win, again. So, we are looking forward to whatever team knocks each other out tonight, and we look forward to the challenge that is ahead of us. 

How much does the leadership of Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi) help in the halftime locker room?
A lot of times we as coaches, we wait a few minutes before we go into halftime, just thinking about what of strategies we need or adjustments we need to make at halftime. By the time we get in there, Sue’s (Bird) already got the second-half game plan. So, it makes our job a lot easier, where we can pick out one or two things that we need to do, and the rest is the players who have been here. That’s why the core players that we have come and play year in and year out is an incredible advantage to the rest of the world, especially when we don’t have as much prep time to get ready for something like this.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Opening statement:
I agree with coach. Belgium is a really good team, and that was a very difficult game. And those are the kinds of games that, if you want to win a tournament like the World Cup, you have to find ways to win. While they played really well, (I have) a lot of respect for them. I thought we did a great job of taking a lot of punches and punching right back. Every time it seemed like they could get control, we took it right back. That speaks volumes about the character of our team. It’s good to feel that and experience that going into the final. So, we’re happy. This was a great win. These are tough, tough games, and that was a great win. 

Thoughts on being able to play in your fourth gold medal game?
This is why you play. Something that gets overlooked in this USA Basketball experience is how difficult it is for us. I know you see the scores at times, and it can look like we’re just going out there and everything’s easy peasy. But, every other country? They’re trying to take us down, and we only have (a short) time to prepare. So when you enter these competitions, you have to be really focused, individually, as a team. We have to get to know Dawn (Staley). Dawn’s getting to know us simultaneously. We’re learning on the go. So, when you get to this point, and you have a chance of winning a gold medal, you know that it’s an amazing opportunity, and it took a lot just to get here. So, you always want to capitalize on that. That’s how we’re all feeling. We know we came here for one reason, and we’re right on that doorstep, knocking, and we want to make the most of it. 

You are one assist behind the USA’s all-time World Cup assist record, held by coach Staley. What kind of head space will that occupy tomorrow?
No head space. You know, I think anytime you can break a record, you know, it’s one of those things, I believe, later when it’s all said and done, you’re tired, you look back and you kind of have a true appreciation. This one is a little bit different in that it is someone like Dawn (Staley) who’s holding it. She is talking about all of the halftime adjustment that me and Dee (Diana Taurasi) are helping with, and, honestly, we saw Dawn do that when she played. So, we learned from the best. So, if the record were to be broken, it would be an honor to just be up there amongst those names. It already is. But, no head space. 

Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics)
On Belgium’s Emma Meesseman:
Emma is such a skilled player, and you know that she is their go-to. I think she is averaging getting up like 16 shots a game. So we knew Emma is going to get hers, and she makes everyone else around her better. But if we could just try to contain her and not let anyone else go off too much, we knew we would be okay.

On the USA’s third quarter:
We picked up our defense. I think Jewell (Loyd) came in and really added so much pressure on the defensive end, and it was able to let us to get out in transition and just open up the floor and fatigue them, because we have so much depth that if we keep pushing and pushing we are able to kind of fatigue other teams. 

How excited are you for tomorrow?
Can’t wait. This is what we are here for. 

On her experience overall:
It’s been awesome. I’ve had a great time. We got one off day where we could really explore Tenerife and got to go to the natural pools together and just hang out and enjoy this beautiful island. So, it’s been really fun for us. 

What was the feeling in the locker room?

A lot of excitement. Everybody is super proud of one another. Coming off of a WNBA season, it’s tough to get right back into it and battle throughout these games. So, we’ve been working really hard, and we are thrilled with where we are at.

Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
On the game:
There are no easy games now. I mean, the whole tournament hasn’t really been easy, honestly. We’ve been getting everybody’s best shot. And Belgium came out on fire, and it was close the whole game.  We started to pull away at the end, and we got the win, so I was very proud of the team.

On scoring the USA’s 10,000 point in women’s World Cup play:

If I ever go on Jeopardy, I will definitely say my name, ‘What is Brittney Griner for the 10,000 and 10,001 point.’ I mean, that’s awesome. It’s a lot of scoring, a lot of scoring. It’s a lot of scoring on the USA’s part, and I’m just glad that I could be a part of this. 

On playing Spain or Australia:

Both teams will be hard. You know, Spain here at home. Australia, we have seen them a lot, going up against my Phoenix Mercury coach. So, it will be a tough game either way it goes, so we are just going to have to wait and see, and just bring it tomorrow.

On matching up against Liz Cambage:
Liz has been killing it. It’s funny, because we are good friends, and we root for each other all the time. So, when we go up against each other, it’s always a battle. And that matchup, I think everybody wants to see that matchup. Two of the biggest going against each other. I think it’d be just good for basketball. 

Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm)
On the game:
I think just once we get going, our energy kind of picks up. Everyone feeds off of it, and so we were able to run in transition, which we didn’t really do a lot of in the first half. Second half, we started to run a little bit, and it opened things up a lot. And, Dee (Diana Taurasi) got hot, too, so that helps as well.

On reaching the final:
It’s awesome. It is what we came here to do and why we came to take part in the training camps, and tomorrow, we have a chance to seal the deal. And so, for us, we are going to get better watching film. Figure out how can we be more disruptive on the defensive end and how can we dominate on the on the offensive end. So, we are excited and can’t wait. 

Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
On the USA’s third quarter:
I think the biggest difference is we were really pushing in transition. Obviously, we were getting stops, which helps us get out and run. But we knew that with our depth, they were going to get tired. And you could tell a little bit in the first half, but second half, that is when it was really noticeable.

What does it mean to you to reach the gold medal game?

I mean, this is exactly the position that we expected and wanted to be in, so it just goes to show that everything we’ve done thus far was for the right reason. But, we know that we still have one more game, and it is going to be the hardest one of them all. 

How do you prepare for tomorrow’s gold medal game?
Physically, you just kind of stay off your feet as much as possible, and then mentally, you know, it’s just mind over matter. Not often are you playing for a gold medal. And when you think of things that way, there is no reason we should be tired. 

Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On tonight’s game:
It was a very hard game. Belgium’s had an incredible tournament. Even tonight they played really good basketball. It’s nice to see a team like that. They’re really organized. They know what they want to do on the court. Today we played well. That second half we got a little bit of rhythm going, and we played well. 

Thoughts on the gold medal game?
Whether it’s Spain or Australia, every team is trying to win. Everyone wants to be the champions. So, you have to go and win the game. You have to play really well, and you have to play together.

On the USA’s third-quarter run:
We got some stops. They’re a really good team. They’re hard to guard. You can tell they’ve been playing together for a long time. If you make a mistake, they make you pay for it. We just got a couple more stops. We made a couple more plays on offense. I think our depth wore them down a little bit. They’ve been playing big minutes. But, that’s a really, really good team. That’s just the bottom line. 

On Emma Meesseman, who scored 13 points in the first quarter and 23 on the night: 

I’m sure they had a game plan to stop someone on our team. When you’re a good player, you’re a good player. You find a way to score. Emma’s one of the best players in the WNBA, the EuroLeague, in the world. I’ve shared the court with her in Russia, and I know what she can do. When you have skills like the way she plays the game as a post player, it just makes her really hard to guard. 

What does it mean for you to be back at your fourth World Cup?
It’s always a challenge. These World Cups are hard. You ask anyone, it’s probably the hardest tournament. It’s grueling. It’s a hard, six games against the best teams, three in a row to try to win it. So, it’s more of a mind over matter at this point.

On meeting Australia or Spain in the final:
They’ve both been the cream of the crop in the last couple world tournaments, Olympics, World Championships. We’ve seen them both. They’re both fantastic. They’ve both been playing really good basketball. Probably Australia has been the best team in this tournament. So, we’ll have to go in there and play really, really good in order to win. 

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