Additional Quotes: USA 79, Australia 55
U.S. Olympic Team head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina)
I thought we came out and played inspired basketball on both sides of the ball. We played with the incredible desire to advance. And it was just contagious. A lot of times in this tournament, you build the lead and you see a team fight back and get into the game. But I just thought our team was really focused on just keeping the heat on Australia not let them back in the game. And I was truly proud of our effort, and just truly proud of the performance. Hopefully it leads us to continuing to play our best basketball on Friday.
Breanna Stewart had 20 points in the first 20 minutes. You've seen a lot of USA Basketball. Is that one of the better performances you've seen from an individual on the offensive end?
Yes. Stewie (Breanna Stewart) is, by far … I've seen her in USA Basketball over the past eight years, how much she's grown. And she probably doesn't even remember in 2016, she didn't really play as much, but she took notes. And when you're in your first Olympic Games, there's a lot of note taking. And I think she’s primed to perform this way for our basketball team and in more Olympic Games. But the way she did it, inside, outside, she was unconscious. She took great shots. She was efficient. But really what stands out to me, we know Stewie can score, is her defensive effort. We asked her to chase those guards around, something that she doesn't do a whole lot. And she's committed to it, and she got deflections. She got block shots. She's just in plays. So super proud of the all-around effort that she gave us.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when somebody mentions Serbia?
First thing that comes to mind is they beat China, and they did a tremendous job of doing that. And they played inspired basketball. And that's a scary thing, because you want to play your best basketball during this time. And I just thought Serbia stepped up and did jsut that, so we know we will have our work cut out for us.
Regardless of what happens, it's over on Sunday. Is it kind of frustrating that you spend so much time and then suddenly, it's over?
I think for us, we're going to be glad that it's over and just relieved that we got through. No one got injured. No one got, hopefully, harmed from a COVID issue. But it's something that we're used to. I think we earmarked it being a month long-journey for us, and we are 90% there. We have to finish it. I think we are singularly focused on continuing to win and continue to play our best basketball to do what we came here to do.
On Breanna Stewart’s comment on her shooting:
See, that’s from a great player, somebody like me, I would have probably tried to get some more shots up, because I was feeling it. But Stewie (Breanna Stewart) just makes the right basketball plays out there on the floor.
From the game in Las Vegas till now, what do you think was the biggest difference? And what does it say about the development of this team?
The biggest thing is we lost. That’s one. The second biggest thing is the quarterfinals, you win and you advance. You lose, and you go home. So, I think it was a build up to that. And for us, we’re forever in search of playing our best basketball. I think our players really have an understanding of what it takes to continue to play at this stage. We've been here at a lot of years of World Cup games and Olympic Games. I think we look forward to these moments when we have to play and play well. It's a good feeling to know that we have a lot more in our tank. We really played on both sides of the ball today, and we can stand to play a lot better. We had 18 turnovers, so there's room to play a lot better than what we played. But obviously, it feels good just knowing that we can tap into the way we really defended today.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm/Connecticut/Syosset, N.Y.)
What was the difference tonight as the USA won easily?
I do think the knockout rounds brings out a certain intensity about you, about a team. So, I think that plays a huge role in it – just understanding this is do or die at this point, win or go home, so I think that helps. I do think we subtly have taken steps in the right direction of getting better. When you think back to that WNBA All Star Game, which I don't even know when that was, two weeks ago? We've made progress, and so that's good. We're trending in the right direction. We're getting more comfortable. We're understanding playing with different people and what that feels like. What it means. Where people like the ball. What's good. What's bad. So on and so forth. So, I think that was kind of like a combination of all those things.
Was this being back to “USA Basketball”?
I think this was one game. I think we're happy that we played well. More than anything, it has nothing to do with the score. It's just like how it felt. I think that's where I think all of us will go to sleep tonight feeling good in terms of, again, the trajectory we're on. But that doesn't mean anything for the semis.
I don't know how much you're paying attention to the news stateside. But did you see anything about this NCAA report about the women’s basketball tournament?
So, I didn't see it. Somebody mentioned it at breakfast, which was at around 9:00 a.m. At that point, no offense to the NCAA, I was focused on other things. So, I haven't taken a close look. I haven't read it. From what I understand, surprise, surprise, the women's game has been undersold and undervalued. So, I don't know much. That's what I know. And I'm not surprised by it.
There's been a lot of talk from athletes and team sports about the pressure of being perfect. How do does this team handle that?
I think in some ways, it's each individual. We come from different WNBA teams. We have different experiences there. And, I think we all deal with it individually in a certain way. And that's to each their own. As a team, what we like to remind each other of is the comfort of having 12 of us. Twelve of us that are extremely talented team. Twelve of us that know what we are doing, and every now and then you do need that reminder to kind of settle you down. That the pressure is not on one person. It's not on me to go out there and score 30. It's not on Dee (Diana Taurasi). It's not on Syl (Sylvia Fowles). It's not on anyone to do that. So, I feel like we try to find the comfort in the fact that there's, I’ll speak for myself, 11 other people that I'm going to be able to count on. But at the same time, that means 11 other people have to bring it, the same way I need to bring it and do my job. So, I think there is some calming affects of that. And we talked about that last night as a team coming into today's game, given that it was the knockout rounds.
Can you see Breanna Stewart being a five-time Olympian?
What makes you think Breanna Stewart could be a five-time Olympian?
Well, she started young, so that's the key. I was lucky in a way, Dee (Diana Taurasi) as well. When you have an Olympics right after college, a year or two after college, you're already off to a good start. And with Stewie, what you're seeing is just a player who continues to add to their game. To me, the funny thing about Stewie, right now, if you take the 2018 World Championships into account and now, she's not even playing her position. So, she's doing what she's doing out of position, and that's just how talented she is. So, there's still a ways to go for her, which is crazy to think about, considering all she's already accomplished and the way she's playing right now.
How different is Australia without Liz Cambage?
It's totally different. It would be like if we didn't have BG (Brittney Griner). When you have players like Elizabeth Cambage, the presence, the focal point that she is, the focus that we have to put on her, the scouting reports change, everything is different. Because she's the type of player that, generally speaking, if you don't double team, she could easily have 40. Obviously, we do have BG, so that that would have changed how we guarded her. I'm just speaking more like (in the) WNBA. It's a nightmare when we have to play against her. You have to constantly know where she is. So, it does change things. At the same time, I think for Australia, I'm not in their locker room, but you lose a player like that and you have to quickly adjust. And I think that adjustment process, it can take some time. And so for them, I think what you saw was a team trying to figure that out.
The USA has only played four games, as opposed to more in previous Olympics. Is it a little tougher to get a rhythm?
It is, I think. This Olympics, I'm pretty sure it will be the hardest, just given not a lot of pool play games. Right away, within a couple of days, you're already in knockout rounds. And that's probably from a U.S. standpoint, to be honest, because a lot of these teams, they train. We used to use pool play as our training, because we didn’t really have practice time. So, from one game to the next, we were just hoping to get better come the quarterfinals. And all the sudden, I feel like we blinked, and we were in the quarterfinals. So, it was a good sign that we're playing better now. But yes, to answer your question. This makes it harder for us specifically.
What do you expect from Serbia?
We played Serbia fairly recently, in Serbia. Whatever year that was. It was 2020, which feels like 10 years ago. They're tough. We were actually talking about it before, like all of us who played overseas, you always had a Serb on your team. You always had a baller on your team, and it was a Serbian player. They just know how to ball out. They know how to play basketball. I played with a bunch of them. So, I know firsthand. I've competed against a lot of them, so I know firsthand. When they step on the court, there are just out there to play basketball and have fun, and they're good at it. So, that's what we're going to be facing. It's not going to be easy.
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx/Louisiana State/Miami, Fla.)
General Comment on the game:
I think everybody had a good pace about themselves knowing what we had to accomplish tonight, and that was to go out there and play 100% with everybody. And I think that's why we came out with a sense of urgency.
Was there any talk about the fact that they had beat you in the exhibition game in Las Vegas?
We didn't talk much about it. We watched film yesterday before practice, and that was pretty much was the last of it. We try not to harp on it, what happened in Vegas. But I think everybody got the memo, and we knew exactly what happened. So, we just tried to come out and play hard.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury/Baylor/Houston, Texas)
General comment on the game:
I'm just excited to be moving on. We'll look at film. Like I said we’ll get in a practice. We'll look at the scout, and then we'll execute whatever schemes it is that we need to do to get the win.
How important was it to get out to a strong start in the first quarter?
It was really important. You definitely you don't want to start off slow. You want to get to a strong start. You want to set precedents and, we messed up on a few little things, but we were able to correct it. And that's the thing, being able to correct things in the flow of a game.
Do you feel like the team is starting to hit better stride?
Yeah, you know, everybody thinks that we're not in the stride that we're normally in, but teams are good. Women's basketball is growing, and the competition is getting even more fierce. It's just really good basketball. So, it's not easy. Even before it wasn't easy. We just remember winning. So, everybody forgets the hard.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm/Connecticut/North Syracuse, N.Y.)
Obviously, we want to be playing our best. I think that we have improved every game from pool play, from the first game to the last. But knowing that this is the knockout stage to win or go home, we wanted to be our best and continue to trend upward. So, I think that we handled business today but know that there's more business to be done on Friday.
Did you actually physically take notes in 2016? Or is that kind of a euphemism for you watching?
I did not physically take notes. But I think that my first Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio, I was fresh out of college, just drafted and continuing to be a sponge. I mean, if I looked around at all the people around me, from the coaches with Dawn (Staley) and the players, there was so many Olympians on that team, previous Olympians, and just knowing that I was just at the start of my career with the national team and wanting to continue that, continuing to make sure I do my best to represent USA and help the team get the gold medal.
Can you foresee yourself being a five-time Olympian like Diana (Taurasi) and Sue Bird?
It's something we talked about actually in practice, probably last week. If I am a five time Olympian, I'll be 37. So I'm younger than the two of them. So, it’s possible.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when somebody mentions Serbia?
When I think of Serbia, I think tough. They're a team that never stops. They're physical. They can play inside and out. So, the last time we saw them was actually in Serbia for the qualifications, and looking forward to kind of competing against them. We'll have the scout ready and do what we can to make things tough for them.
When you are in a stretch like you were in the first half, is it almost kind of an out-of-body experience? What’s it like?
To be honest, I don't think I'm thinking at all. I think I'm just playing, having a feel for the game, knowing that shots went in, knowing that the defense is kind of on their heels as far as shooting, driving, getting to the free throw line, and just trying to make the right play, especially if I was able to kind of knock down some shots early, I know that the defense is going to be up on me and someone else is going to be open. But just doing what I'm supposed to do. Doing my job, and today shots went in.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury/Connecticut/China, Calif.)
On the game against Australia:
We haven't had one of these in a while where we can truly say we came out, and I think everyone for the most part gave the effort that we needed. I think in pool play, we were still trying to figure out where we were as a team mentally, physically, strategically, and I think today we're starting to find our DNA a little bit, which is a good thing.
The schedule has been different for these Olympics. Does it help to have more practices or is it like we want play more games to get into a rhythm?
It's funny. It's been a tale of two different situations. In (Las) Vegas we probably needed more practice than games, and here we probably want more games than practice. So, it's an interesting Olympics. The situation with the pandemic and the way it's situated, it's been it's been a different Olympics.