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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

McCoughtry, Charles power U.S. past Turkey

Angel McCoughtry had 18 points and seven rebounds and former UConn star Tina Charles added 16 points and seven rebounds as the U.S. beat previously undefeated Turkey 89-58 on Wednesday to clinch a berth in the knockout stage of the Olympics.

Lindsay Whalen added nine points, seven rebounds and two assists as the U.S. improved to 3-0 in Group A. Former UConn star Asjha Jones was rewarded with the start on her 32nd birthday and finished with eight points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and a blocked shot.

Next up is a rematch of the 2010 FIBA World Championship gold medal game when the U.S. faces the Czech Republic. If the U.S. wins and China beats Turkey on Wednesday, the winner of Friday's U.S./China game will win Group A and draw the No. 4 team out of Group B which is Canada at the current time.

Here are some quotes from Geno Auriemma and former UConn stars Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi courtesy of USA Basketball


Geno Auriemma
On tonight’s game:
My views haven’t changed that much from the last time we played Turkey.  When I saw them play in the European qualifier I thought they looked great.  They were clearly one of the top two teams in the tournament.  Watching them play leading up to our game, I haven’t changed my mind one bit; they have been shooting the ball great.  They did that tonight too.  They are a very difficult team to match up with.  Last time we played them their big guys really hurt us, tonight we did a really good job on their big guys, but their guards really hurt us. They are not an easy team to prepare for.  I thought … Lindsay’s (Whalen) kind of the captain of those commandos that come in the latter part of the first quarter about the five-minute mark and they come in and they kind of changed the tempo of the game and that’s what happened again tonight; she’s been a great leader for them and a great leader for us.  Angel McCoughtry was the difference in the game today … without question.
On Lindsay Whalen:
When Lindsay was in college and we were getting ready to play them in the Final Four, I thought she was a great combination of someone who was hard-nosed and smart, creative.  She is what a guard is supposed to be.  Back in the day you had guards, forwards, and centers.  Then somewhere along the line somebody screwed it up and said you have to have a point guard, two guard, small forward, and all that other stuff.
Lindsay’s just an old fashioned guard from back in the day, the way she looks, the way she plays.   When I watched her in the pros before I had the chance to coach her I was like, ‘man, this kid doesn’t have any fun playing. She needs to smile more. She needs to love life and enjoy herself.’ When I got to know her a little bit at the World Championships and people ask me what was the most surprising part of the (USA) World Championship Team for you, and I say Lindsay Whalen.  Her attitude, the work ethic that she brings, the confidence that I have in her is unquestioned.  She belongs here, some people might not have not known that until she won a WNBA Championship last year, but she’s belonged here for a long time and I’m proud to have her. 
On scoring stretches of the defense:
The difficult thing for us is to have any continuity in our half-court offense, simply because we haven’t had a chance to spend a lot of time together.  A lot of our offense has to generate from our defense.  It took awhile because these guys are hard to play against. They’re really hard to play against, as most International teams are, but these guys especially because their ball movement and the way they make you chase them around, it’s not easy. But, there was a lot of stretches there when our defense caught up to them and got there ahead of time sometimes. That’s this team’s best quality is getting out in transition. We’re going to have to do that. If it just comes down to walk it up the floor and play strictly on our offense, that’s going to be a struggle for us.
On how the team is shaping up:
Each game we have gotten better at doing some things that you’re going to need to do to win here in this tournament.  Each game we’ve had longer and longer stretches where we have been consistently good on offense.  Defensively we’re getting better. The hardest thing in this tournament is playing good defense, because they’re so well balanced. Every team is well balanced. The minute you make a mistake on somebody, you’re gonna get hurt on somebody else.  We’ve had longer and longer stretches where we ‘ve been very good. That’s what you have to hope for at this point, just make sure we get better every game.

Maya Moore
On tonight’s game:
We were shaky at times in the first quarter.  It wasn’t what we wanted.   Beginning of the third quarter we didn’t make it hard enough for them, but overall that was the type of game we wanted defensively.
On having players with injuries:
Everybody’s got to deal with that, so it’s an equal playing field.   IT’s not anything we’re not used to.  It’s how the World Championships are … that’s what we do all year.   Overseas … well for us overseas coming out to the US.   We’re always playing and it’s something we have to maintain and make sure we are proactive with our bodies but like I said, everybody has to deal with it.
On the winning streak:
We want to win every ball game.  What happened in the past is in the past, we are proud of it which is the most important thing.  We’ve made some mistakes in international play but we were able to fix them by the time the Olympics rolled around.  That seems to be the right recipe, to learn from your mistakes before the Olympics.  When you are at the Olympics you make sure you execute every game.  We have been working hard, taking advantage of our off days, to practice and not just sit around so when we go into each game we are confident we’re going to win.

Diana Taurasi
Is a tight game like this for a while good for this team at this point?They play basketball too. They work hard and have a talented bunch of players, we all know them really well; they’ve been training for two or three months together and you can tell they’ve played together for a long time. Some games take a little longer, we did some good things out there today that we can build on. I think it was a good game for us.

What’s the biggest thing this group needs to work on?
There’s probably things in the half court that we need to get a little bit better at on both ends and that just comes with being a little bit more focused on communicating and being on the same page and that just comes with more playing time which is kind of limited at this point.

What do you think going into the next one, what’s the one thing as a group that you guys will really focus on?
I think defensively we probably gave up more uncontested shots than we would have liked and that comes from breaking people down on the perimeter and obviously help comes and they kick and these are good shooting teams so those are things were going to have to limit a little more.

Do you feel like there’s a target on your back and everyone is gunning for the U.S.?
Yeah, but at the same time we’re gunning for everyone else too. You don’t get a gold medal just because of your reputation and your history. You have to go out there and fight for it and grab it, so we’re putting targets on people too.
On the depth of the team:
That’s always been our strength.   Probably go back twenty years and that’s usually been our strong suit … having 11 players that can go in the game and you feel just as comfortable with any five combinations you put out there.  That’s pretty special about our team.
On the second unit tonight:
They did great.  They come in with a lot of energy, create a lot of havoc.  Tonight they played really well again.

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