Quotes: USA 102, Venezuela 53
USA head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina)
Is there a conscious effort to make sure you get everyone as involved as possible, so you can evaluate your combinations?
All of these players are very, very talented, so it's very difficult figuring out how you manage the minutes. Most of us coaches aren't used to playing a 12-player roster, but all of them deserve to play. I like combinations. There are certain combinations that we like on the floor. There are certain post player combinations we like as well, because they just complement each other so well. I'm hoping that we're able to use our depth throughout this entire tournament, because that is the thing that separates us from every other team in this competition. And I'm hoping that it continues that way.
Is there a combination that has surprised you?
I thought our second group that comes in – I think they do a great job. They surprise me with their defensive presence, and they created some separation once they come in the basketball game. I am elated that they're able to do that, because we know they can score. We know that everybody on this particular basketball team can score a lot of points and fill the stat sheet up. Defense is something that is a separator, and I think that group is doing a great job of holding serve and getting out into the passing lanes and giving us a little bit of something different that we don't have in the starting lineup.
Do you think this team will set a trend for USA Basketball in terms of sending college athletes to qualifiers?
We played in this tournament three years ago in the fall, and if it's going to be during this time, the summer months, I do feel like we can put together a team that is composed of college players. As you can see, they have a willingness to want to play with each other. They have an incredible connection. They don't mind doing it. And I think is our duty as well, because they do take a chunk of their summer, to make sure they're developing some of the things that they want to take back to their collegiate teams. So, I feel like with the success of this team, if we do come out of this tournament as winners, we give USA Basketball an option to formulate a team that is composed of college players.
Grace Berger (Indiana/Louisville, Ky.)
How did you guys play tonight?
We were really just focused on ourselves coming into the game and getting better for this weekend, getting better for Saturday. That's our ultimate goal, is to be our best on Saturday in the championship game. So, we just did the little things. We shared the ball, everybody got involved and did their role, so it was a good night.
How is the experience for you?
It's an unbelievable experience. I'm just trying to do everything I can for us to bring home a gold medal for our country. It's fun playing for great coaches and with great teammates. They make it easy, so I'm just trying to do my role and do whatever I can.
Jakia Brown-Turner (NC State/Oxen Hill, Md.)
How did you guys play today?
I think we played really good as a team. We rebounded the ball well had a lot of assists, and that was one of the main things that we wanted to do, was to have a lot of assists and a higher field goal percentage, and I think we did that.
For you personally, how is this experience going?
I think it's going pretty good – cheering for my teammates and doing whatever I can to help the team win.
Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.)
How did the team play?
We did well. At the beginning we did have low energy, but then we started talking and staying together and figured it out and we ended up getting into the flow. Our shots started falling, and we had high energy.
On your 3-point shooting:
It was just great today. Once we started getting into the flow of things, shots just started falling. They kept finding me, and I just kept hitting.
Sedona Prince (Oregon/Liberty Hill, Texas)
How did the team play today?
We played really well. We came out in the first half and had some problems with knocking down our shots, but after a while we got into our flow and decided to lock down on defense. I thought we played as a team and had a lot of assists, which is what we wanted to focus on today, so it was a really good effort.
As a young player against pros, how vital is this experience?
It's very special, especially since we come out here and play against teams that play different styles than us, play against teams are more physical, have more experience. And so as young players, it's just such a great experience to learn and grow like this, and also become closer to the team and meet other girls and stuff. It’s special to travel the world to play for your country for sure.
What are you learning in this experience?
I think the biggest thing we learn is growing up in basketball and really becoming more mature, having composure with the ball and making sure that every possession matters, on offense and defense, and just taking pride in how you played. That's the biggest thing. I’ve played for USA Basketball since I was 15 years old, and it's taught me a lot among the years. But just being mature, being composed, playing with heart, because you're playing for something way bigger than yourself.