Quotes: USA 74, Puerto Rico 59
USA head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina)
What can we expect for these young players in the next few years?
We compiled a group of young, college, talented young ladies that made a commitment to come to this tournament, knowing that we would be out-experienced. But they worked hard throughout the trials, they worked hard throughout the training camp, and we just kind of let them know that these are grown women you're going to play against. These are professional women's basketball players that you're going to play against, and we're going to have to utilize our depth, utilize our talent, utilize our ability to have played on a big stage in college. But coming here and playing was a great experience with them. I know they made me a better coach. I hope we as a coaching staff made them better players, just to have this type of experience. But it was awesome. We've been together for about a month, three weeks now, and it's been great.
What is the expectation for Tokyo now?
The expectation is that we will get together for training camp in about another month. We'll train. We'll have some exhibition games, and then we'll go over to Tokyo at the end of July. Hopefully we'll have the same results that we've had here.
What adjustments did you make in the third quarter?
It's been taken us a little bit longer to make that adjustment of this style of play, and I thought we put Rhyne (Howard) in the position where she could make decisions whether she wanted to shoot the ball or deliver it to some of our other post players. I thought Veronica Burton did a great job on (Jennifer) O’Neill. I know O’Neill is a tough, tough, tough challenge for any collegiate player, but I thought Veronica did a great job of contesting her shots, chasing her off screens, just making it difficult for her to get off clean looks. And you see what type of player she is when she gets clean looks. She makes you pay for them. She's very, very efficient. So just coupled with us our ability to rebound the basketball, our ability to put the ball in the hole, easy buckets we put in the hole, and found ourselves in a position where we just opened it up and got to get a small cushion to make us comfortable to the end of the game.
How do you feel about leading a special group like this and what have you learned from them?
Anytime that you can represent our country in this manner, I played as an athlete in a lot of competitions, and I know the type of coaches that I had to guide me. And I'm just repaying the debt of what other USA Basketball coaches have given me. And I'm hoping that their experience, these young players, their experience will be as long as my career was with USA Basketball as a player.
Have you had time to reflect on how surreal your journey with USA Basketball has been?
I really haven't reflected. I think we have been really busy, just trying to do as much preparation as possible. Winning the gold medal, it puts a lot of pressure on you, and you don't want to put the cart before the horse. So, I just got my head down, just trying to prep and make sure I'm not the coach that ends the run of our successful gold medal run.
What was your message to the team at halftime?
At halftime we made some offensive adjustments, just trying to get people the ball where they can be effective. Particularly Rhyne, we tried to get her in the middle of the floor where she can get an opportunity to shoot the ball or be a point guard in that instance. She had it going on in the first half, and we wanted to get her a lot more looks. So, we made some adjustments there.
What can you say about the development of the Puerto Rico National Team?
The Puerto Rican team, they're always competitive, whether it's this year or three years ago when we played in the FIBA AmeriCup. They've gotten better, and better and better. Obviously, they got two players that are spectacular, but all the other players, role players that play around them, they do a tremendous job on both sides of the basketball, and I won't be surprised that they upset some people in Tokyo.
Aliyah Boston (South Carolina/St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.)
Can you talk about having 19 rebounds?
Coach emphasized crashing the boards, making sure that we were going to outrebound them, so I just focused on that.
Elissa Cunane (NC State/Summerfield, N.C.)
What did you think of the game against Puerto Rico?
We just never gave up. Even though we went into the half down, we never gave up, and that's why we're standing here right now.
What does it mean for you to make the all-tournament team?
It means everything, just to come out here my first time with USA Basketball and to make as big of an impact on the team as I did, it's just an honor and a testament to my teammates and coaches around me.
Naz Hillmon (Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio)
What does it feel like to win this gold medal?
It feels amazing. We got a great win against a great team and being able to have gold medal with this team and this staff has been an amazing opportunity for me.
How do you feel about your performance?
I think I had a strong showing. I really tried to do anything that I could to help my team, whether that was offensively or defensively. I really felt like I put my all out there during this tournament.
How about the dance battle during the break?
I think it really got us going. It warmed us up going back into that two-minute stretch. It was a lot of fun. I mean, that's what this game is about – having fun and enjoying it, and that was a glimpse of that.
Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.)
What does it mean to you to win MVP?
I really wasn't looking for the MVP, just to provide for my team and produce for my team and get us a win. To get MVP was an added bonus.
What about the game against Puerto Rico?
It was a good game. They put up a tough fight. We knew it was going to be good. They were the home team and had the crowd on their side, but we continued to fight, and we continued to push through and stay together.
What about the dance battle, did you win that one, too?
Oh, we definitely won the dance battle. They ended up walking away. It was super fun. Definitely something to relieve some of the pressure and have fun. The game is about having fun, and that’s what we did.
How does this affect you guys, having this sense of accomplishment, not just for yourselves but for your “big sisters” who will probably be playing in the World Cup next year?
This is a good reputation for us. We got together for a short amount of time, and then to come here and put it all together, and work together as if we played for months, and then to use what the coaches have taught us and apply it on the floor and be able to make adjustments and stay together through adversity, is just great for us as a whole and even for the country. And then it just leads to our bigger sisters, like you said. Now they have to continue to get the job done.
Ashley Owusu (Maryland/Woodbridge, Va.)
What did you think of the game against Puerto Rico?
It was a great atmosphere for the championship game. They came out hot, we also came out hot, so I think it was a good game on both sides.