Additional Quotes: USA 93, France 82
U.S. Olympic Team head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina)
Was it good to have a tough contest to close out pool play?
They're all tough in their own way. We played three different teams with three different styles. I thought at times we made great adjustments, and I thought at other times it looked like a team that hadn't had a whole lot of practice. But we found a way to win. I'm super proud of our team that we're able to take people's best punch, and we continue to fight, and we continue to find a way to win basketball games. That is tribute to the players in their ability to make big plays.
Who do you think stepped up really big tonight?
I thought Tina (Charles) just really gave us a shot in the arm when we needed it, her ability to score outside the 3, and then she would take her man down in a paint and score for us. We see offensively what she gave to our team, but defensively I thought she was a glue out there, just directing traffic. So, it's a luxury to have a three-time Olympian come off the bench and impact the game the way she did. And that's our that's our separator, so hopefully we can continue to use our depth to go deep into this Olympic Games.
I thought we ran up against tough France team that was playing to survive and advance in the Olympic Games, and they played with extra effort. They hit some incredible shots, and they put us back on our heels. And I thought we made some adjustments, and I thought we did what we needed to do to win a basketball game. We had great contributions from a lot of different people. But we were still a work in progress, and hopefully we can continue to clean up some things in some areas out there on the floor. But we put ourselves in a position to go undefeated in a pool play, and we move on to the quarters.
Is it almost a luxury to have the post players that you've gotten this tournament?
It is a luxury. I don't think any other country possesses what we have in our bigs. And we didn’t even talk about Napheesa (Collier), and Napheesa hasn't played a whole lot in this tournament, and that is because of the likes of Brittney (Griner), Tina (Charles), A’ja (Wilson) and Syl (Sylvia Fowles). And then we haven't really played Stewie, Breanna Stewart, at the four either. So, we know that's the strength of our team at the moment, and we try to feed them as much as possible. And fortunately for us, they've delivered.
What have you seen in these three wins that's encouraged you the most as you guys go into this elimination round?
One that we won. It’s encouraging to continue to win, knowing what we're faced against. We are a lot different than we've been in the Olympic Games leading up to this one, in that we've just had half of the team that's been around, and then the other half really hasn't. And when you're when your makeup is such, you have a tendency to lean heavily on the people that have done it a whole lot. And that means playing … Stewie (Breanan Stewart) had to play 38 minutes for us tonight, and that's hard. So, I'm encouraged by we're getting better. I'm encouraged by A’ja Wilson, her ability to be consistent in making shots and rebounding the basketball. I'm encouraged by Tina (Charles), who was able to come off the bench and play the whole fourth quarter and give us the boost that we needed, from the outside and the inside. I'm encouraged by our ability to defend, and there's room for improvement. So, I'm encouraged by the room for improvement to really lock down and play some defense.
Is it good to see the International, worldwide growth of women’s basketball teams overall?
The countries here at the Olympic Games, they pour into their women's teams, and now you're seeing the effects of it, and that is great women's basketball play. Does everybody want us to come out and blow everybody out? Some people do and feel like that is supposed to happen. Well for us, we know we're in the dogfight every time we step on the floor. So, to even think that is a disservice to women's basketball, and you really haven't been watching and you only watch during the Olympic Games. So if you just do a little research, some of the things that you post in the stories that you write, you'll know that this is how it's supposed to be. And it's uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable for us, but it's uncomfortable for the people that are watching, because we're not blowing teams out. But it's great for those who just put the television on and sit down and watch players that they haven't seen before, countries they haven't seen before and see them play a great game.
What are you seeing A’ja Wilson do that might be her meeting this moment?
Well, A’ja is just being A’ja. A lot of times that doesn't happen on this stage, as big as it is. But you look at who's surrounding her. I mean, she's got a point guard in Sue Bird that is going to make her life easy. She's got Diana Taurasi who is going to put her in a position to just think about shooting. She doesn't have to think about avoiding traffic. She doesn't have to think about being double-teamed. These are pinpoint passes, and those are the easy ones. And A’ja is making moves to score the basketball, but half of it is because of who she's playing with. She's got other post players – they got a high-low game going. So, she’s comfortable in her skin, and that's always a great thing for any young player.
Tina Charles (Washington Mystics/Connecticut/Jamaica, N.Y.)
We came in knowing that France was going to come in fighting for their lives. We're not the only ones trying to attain gold. We’re not the only ones who try to medal. So, we knew they were going to give us their best, and that's exactly what they did. I played with (Marine) Johannes with the New York Liberty, and she's a very crafty player, gets people involved. I played with Sandrine Gruda, very aggressive and (Endene) Miyen. They have great players. They have a great coaching staff over there, and they played extremely well, definitely prepared us.
You hit two threes in the fourth quarter. How nice was it to be able to knock down those shots of in the fourth quarter today?
That was just preparation that met opportunity. I strive myself on getting better each and every single year. The older I get, younger players are coming in, and we have great players in our league great players abroad. And in order to separate myself or keep myself within the same company that I'm in, I have to just keep working on my game, and extending my range was my top priority. And again, I'm just thankful that that Dawn (Staley) allows us to just be ourselves while we're while we're on this team. And again, preparation met opportunity. So, I'm glad it went in, because we definitely needed to separate ourselves from France.
What have you seen from some of the younger women on this team throughout this pool play?
What I see from the six players, I just see attention to detail. I see them very coachable, always asking questions, communicating, wanting to learn, wanting to get better. And I think it's for them, it's very rewarding that they're able to still play with Dee (Diana Taurasi) and Sue (Bird) and just have that experience to play under Dawn (Staley), who started all this back in ‘96. I grew up watching her and when the league (WNBA) started and her with the (Sting) and then her on the USA team. And so, it's just really coming full circle. And I think it's great for Dawn. I think it's great for Dee, and Sue, and myself, and Sylvia Fowles, and BG (Brittney Griner) and Stewie (Breanna Stewart). We're considered the older ones now, and we're just trying to lead by example. But their attention to detail. I mean, I can't say enough about A’ja Wilson and just the way that she's performing and just stepping up into who she is as a player and as a woman, especially in the community.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm/Connecticut/North Syracuse, N.Y.)
France is a tough team, how did you think the team played tonight?
Yeah, I thought I thought we, we played really well tonight, obviously, there were moments where we could have been better. But that happens during the course of the game. But we knew France had their backs against the wall, you know, they needed to kind of play their best today and play within a certain margin to advance. But like I said before, whether there was implications on this game or not France is always a tough team.
Were you aware of exactly what their calculations were?
I mean, we've talked about it, you know, here and there and the meal rooms about the point differential and this and that, but it's like super complicated, confusing. We knew that the most important thing for us was to win. And that's it.
A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces/South Carolina/Hopkins, S.C.)
It seems like you're very comfortable out on the court. Is it that you have gotten older, or this group of players?
I mean, look who I'm playing alongside of. They're just so good, and they're making sure that we're getting the best shot on the floor. And I'm just trying to be a good teammate, letting them know that I'm there, communicating with them at on both sides of the basketball and just letting the game come to me. This is probably the most I've ever rebounded in my whole career, but that's the biggest thing is just trying to create more possessions for this team. So, I'm just having fun with it.
That one steal, did you about finishing it off in a different fashion?
I got to make the layup first before I get started talking about dunking. But it's funny, I missed it, and Coach (Dawn) Staley just knew I was going to miss it. See, that's the Juju that I didn't need. But it's okay. We got the win.
You're doing a little bit of everything here in these games. How much are you enjoying that?
It's just my role. My role in this team is different than it is on the Aces, and I'm going to try to implement that as much as I can and just get possessions for my teammates and making sure that they know that I'm there for them, so they can trust me and hold me accountable.
Could you tell the French had to keep the score to 13 or less to qualify by the way they were playing?
I had no idea. I was just out there just playing our game, making sure that we got the win. I didn't really know. I try to stay out of the point system. I just want to have more points than the other team.
How much fun is it playing with Breanna Stewart, Brittney Griner and Sylvia Fowles?
We’re deep and very versatile. I think that's the beauty of it. We all bring something so different to the game, to the inside game, and it makes it hard for us to guard. I can only imagine teams when they see us subbing in with what we have. It's pretty incredible to play alongside. I’m one of the young guns, so I'm just here soaking it all in.
But what kind of momentum does this bring to use going into the quarterfinals?
We're playing every game like it's a must-win. We're playing every game like it's our last and every possession like it's our last, because that's when it matters the most. When you get in those medal games, I have no idea how they're going to go. I have never been in one. But at the end of the day, when you play possessions like that, you're used to the crunch time. You're used to lead changes, and then you just play out of that.