UConn's Stewart leads U.S. past Australia
Four former UConn stars were in the starting lineup as Maya Moore had seven points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot, Tina Charles and Sue Bird six points each and Diana Taurasi two points and a team-high six assists. Former UConn standout Stefanie Dolson added two points and two assists for the U.S.
The U.S. will play exhibitions in Paris against China on Saturday and France on Sunday before heading to play the host Czech Republic in the final showdown before the World Championships kick off in Turkey.
Also, Canada lost to Cuba 69-66 in overtime in an exhibition today played in Spain with UConn freshman Kia Nurse finishing with three points for Canada. There will be another tune-up tomorrow against Spain for Canada.
Here are quotes from U.S. and UConn coach Geno Auriemma, Moore, Taurasi and Stewart courtesy of USA Basketball.
On getting everyone involved (all 15 had checked in by the 15-minute mark):
We’re kind of in a little bit of a quandary. We obviously want to win the game, which is priority No. 1. But it’s a little unusual that priority No. 1-A is trying to get 15 players somewhat significant playing time as opposed to garbage time. So there’s no offensive flow, it’s tough on defense and we looked like it at times. But we’re trying to put our team together. We’re trying to find the right combination for everybody, and it’s important that we do that. I don’t want to sacrifice the game to do that, I’m glad we won, but I think you could see some things that we were doing that looked really, really good and some things that obviously we have to work on. Overall, we’re just going to get better all the time. I’ve been doing this long enough with USA Basketball that we don’t expect to look your best early on. As long as we keep improving, then I’m happy.
Who stood out for you today?
The veterans always do well. Dee (Taurasi) and Candice (Dupree), I told them that they looked like they were playing underwater. They just got here yesterday, so that was to be expected. I thought Sue gave us some great minutes. The veterans were good. I thought Seimone (Augustus) coming off the bench gave us some huge stuff. Stewie (Breanna Stewart) gave us a big spark, Nneka (Ogwumike) gave us some great minutes. Everybody else was good. Angel (McCoughtry) struggled a little bit in the first half with fouls, and she’s somebody we’re going to need. But, there were a lot of moments in there that I really liked.
Australia’s Liz Cambage left the game after falling down in the first half. Would you have liked to have seen her in longer?
I would have like to have seen her out there, because we need to be challenged in that area. Our big guys need to be challenged. That’s an area where we’re obviously concerned. There are a lot of really good post players that aren’t here, size-wise anyway. The ones that are here are so young, they really don’t have the kind experience that they need, playing against these kinds of players. So, yes it’s unfortunate. I hope she’s okay. There’s nobody like her. Brittney Griner’s big. Brittney Griner’s tall. This girl is tall (with emphasis), and she’s big (with emphasis) and that’s a deadly combination.
You talked to the team about the need to get better defensively. Is that something you want to work on before tomorrow’s game against China?
I think when the younger guys came in and we extended our defense a little bit, that helped. I told them, I said, ‘You guys are going to really have to take this to heart. Make this part of who you are, because some of these older guys … when I say press, they’re not jumping up and down about it.’ So, we’ve got great young legs and great energy coming off the bench, and those guys really made a big difference in that third quarter.
On tonight’s game:
Every time we face each other, both teams understand and respect each other. We understand the weight of the game; we respect the talent and the experience that’s on both sides. So, both teams are in an interesting place where they’ve got a few veteran players, but a lot of young players, too. It was good to see some of our young guys come in and experience Australia at this level for the first time.
On the fact that everyone checked into the game within the first 15 minutes and the coaching staff getting a look at different rotations:
We’re figuring it out; who works well, who works the best with each other. To start off the second half, the first five, we found a better rhythm with each other. And then there was a group there, Seimone (Augustus), Nneka (Ogwumike) and I think Lindsay (Whalen), that really got on a run for us and pushed the lead. Everyone was doing what they’re really good at. Angel (McCoughtry) was in there also. I was really, really excited for that group.
On her block that went into the Australian staff on the bench:
It was just one of those moments where they were running some action underneath and I was a little bit late, so I was trying to recover really quickly. I was able to get the elevation to block the shot. It was just a hustle play that I was trying to make up for a little bit of missed coverage. Hopefully it helped build the momentum for us.
On any insight she’s given Breanna Stewart, having been in this position four years ago as a college player:
I just try to drop little nuggets here and there. Mainly it’s just the physicality of the game for her. She’s getting used to that. She’s just so talented and has so many abilities. It’s just her getting a feel for the physicality at this level. She’s being strong, so she can finish through players instead of around players at this level. She’s doing a great job. She knows how to play the game. She’s never going to give up or hang her head. She’s always going to compete and end up making a play. She’ll definitely continue to grow. I’m excited to watch her grow as a USA Basketball player.
On going up against the Australia National Team:
It was very competitive. Obviously coming in we knew they were a really good team and they were going to give us a good fight. I think that after we went through our subs and picked the tempo up, we kind of got away from them a little bit.
You’ve had a lot of games against them at the junior level, are they all just as tough in this rivalry?
Yeah, they play the same on all levels, obviously. The talent just gets better. There are some familiar faces that I could see. I remember (Rebecca) Allen (from the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship), and China has a bunch of them. It’s just fun to be here and play against them.
On being the youngest member of this team:
Having been with the team for about two weeks now, it really helps me get a great comfort level with the players and stuff like that, and just get acclimated to their style of play and what they’re trying to do. I think this is a great tournament to help get you ready for the next one.
On the praise heaped on her by coach Geno Auriemma following the USA-Canada game:
It’s a great honor (for me) for him to say that. Obviously, he’s a great coach. He’s coached a lot of great players. The fact that I still want to become successful at higher things, I have higher goals, I just want to keep getting better and not let any of it get to my head.
On the game:
They are a tough team. They always play physical, and they have some of the best players in the world, so it was a tough game. But today for this group being together for the first time, I think we did a pretty good job.
On her six assists:
Sometimes you just have to slow everything down a little bit. I’m just trying to get used to playing with Sue again and some of the other players, so I think today was a pretty good game for us.