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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Taurasi, Charles, Moore star in win over Czech Republic

Former UConn national players of the year Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles and Maya Moore played starring roles as the United States defeated the Czech Republic 88-61 at the Olympics on Friday.

Taurasi had 18 points and was 4 of 8 from 3-point range, Charles had 16 points and 15 rebounds and Moore 14 points and eight rebounds as the U.S. easily won a rematch of the gold medal game in the 2010 FIBA World Championships and remained the only undefeated team in Group A.

The U.S. wraps up pool play against China, which is coming off its first loss of the tournament, on Sunday. Heading into the final preliminary round game Charles is leading all players in rebounding (9.5 per game), tied for seventh in scoring (13 PPG) and tied for ninth with an average of 1 blocked shot per game. Former UConn star Sue Bird (who had nine assists in Friday's win) ranks second in assists (5.8) and assist/turnover ratio (2.9).

Here are some quotes from UConn and U.S. coach Geno Auriemma, and former Huskies Bird, Charles , Moore and Taurasi.

On tonight’s game:
It was kind of a tale of two haves. We scored a lot of points and gave up a lot of points. I thought in the second half our defense was really, really good, especially defending the three. I thought we did a good job defending the three the entire second half. Offense isn’t going to be a problem for our team and certainly wasn’t tonight. [Inaudible] When the Czech team got off to a 10-0 start I think that was indicative of how well they shoot the ball and when they go on a role like that they are difficult to defend. We really challenged our guys at halftime to make sure they took away their threes. I think that was a big difference in the game – the way we defended in the second half .
On Maya Moore – she gets her hand on every single ball whether it’s a deflection, a steal or a rebound whatever it may be:
That is one of the reasons why I wanted to get her in the starting lineup and start the game of with a little bit of that. She is just a high energy player. She plays every possession to the end and not everybody does that. So for Maya every defensive possession is an opportunity to get a steal. Every shot is an opportunity to get a rebound. It’s just her makeup. It’s who she is. She has been like that since her freshman year of college. I am not surprised that she is doing what she is doing, because she works incredibly hard at it. As hard as any player I have ever seen at any level ever.
Can you talk about offensively - you missed a lot of shots. Also Diana seemed to get off today – knocked some shots down but defensively she was down on the floor really dictating things to. It seems like you are missing a lot of shots also?
I think that when you get to the Olympic Games shooting percentages can go down – because players have a tendency to rush things. That one possession I think we had six offensive rebounds in one possession and couldn’t make a layup. The offense is going to go up and down depending on the day maybe but I know we are going to go on a couple of runs in the course of the game. We certainly need Diana to play the way she played today because when she does she is able to stretch the team’s defense like nobody else. The Czech team is very difficult to play against. Defensively the only chance we had was just to wear them down. I think that is exactly what happened they got worn down.
On talking to them at halftime and eliminating #15 Eva Viteckova:
I thought it was not just her but the entire team. International teams shoot the three very well especially when they are standing there and you don’t have a hand up. At halftime we spoke about how we were going to defend those threes and what kind of rotations we were going to make, how hard we have to work, to get out there and we did. We didn’t give up a three in the second half. That was a huge difference in the game to go from 38 points in the first half to 23 in the second half. For us is going to be about how well we defend teams. And if we can really defend as well as we did that second half then I think it is going to be very difficult to play against us.
Have you seen some good progression of the team over the last four games?
Yes, there’s lots of things I have seen that I think are getting better. I think some of the changes we made in the lineup tonight I think helped.  It wasn’t quite evident right at the beginning when they got off to a 10-0 start. But I think we had one more three-point shooter out there with Maya, Sue & Diana – it’s really difficult for team to figure out which three-point shot they are going to take away. And then when Tina came in she was tremendous. We have said all along we want to keep at it to keep getting better every game and keep improving and I think we have. I think from the first game against Croatia to know we are a much better team.

Does it help to have a veteran team so when you fall behind early no one panics or gets tight?
On this team I don’t know that it’s anything but that sometimes it takes a little time to get into a flow and I think we’re all mature enough and experienced enough to know that and to not have panic. There was never a moment of panic, not in this game, not in the Croatia game, never, and that’s good thing.
When the defense picks it up and you start getting into transition, that seems to fit this team’s style.
I think with some of these other teams were expected be winning by 20 in the first two minutes and that’s just not going to happen. Some of these teams are very good, well coached, great players. So for tonight what I think you saw was them come out and get a little hot there in the first couple of minutes and then we got back to it defensively which allowed us to score and get some easy baskets in transition.


Can you talk about the rebounding of the team tonight and how you dominated that part of the game?
Coach definitely put an emphasis on getting on the O(ffensive) boards.  We just have to keep doing that.  Syl, Maya, myself and Candace, we just have to keep doing that.
It seemed you took control once the Czech Republic started missing some shots?
We started to be more aggressive on them … try to deny the ball more and it definitely worked.
Were you expecting a tougher match tonight?
Everybody out her is really great.  Everybody who made it to this position, to be in the Olympics.  Everybody’s great.  You can’t underestimate anybody.
Are you already thinking about next week and the quarterfinals?
No.  Right now our focus is on China.  That’s our next game … that’s where our focus is.
Do you feel good about the camaraderie on this team?
Everybody’s doing fine.  There is great chemistry here.


On the game:
Like coach said as far as the three-point defense which is something that we have been trying to make sure that we lock in on because we know that the team we are playing are such great three-point shooters. That was a good sign for us - the way we responded. I always like when we have a lot of assists on our field goals. That means that we are going to score a lot of points sharing the ball like we do. When we didn’t turn the ball over I thought we executed very well – got the shots we wanted, skipping it inside-out in the zone, Tina [Charles] cutting through the lane off of our zone offense. We got some good things and we took some steps forwards as far as our feel for what we want to do defensively. And offensively. 
On how good the team would be if it played together a full season:
That’s scary. I think the last time any of us new what that was like was in college, which is most recent for me. I am still getting used to playing with different teams. This is like my fifth team in a year. I am sure we would be in much better sync – not that I am saying we are not in sync know. I think we are doing a great job. But it is hard to answer that – how good we would be. We would be awesome. I am enjoying every minute that we have with this group right now and I am excited to play on Sunday.
You seem to be getting your hand on every ball defensively right now … what is it about you that allows that to happen?
That’s my job.  I think when I get in the game, I just want to cause chaos for the other team as well as I can.  I feel like I’ve got some athletic ability and some long arms, quick hands so I might as well use them for good.  I try to get in the passing lane, get a tip-in, get a steal and hopefully it will cause some momentum for my team.
On the team coming back from a slow start:
We had a little bit of a tough time getting our shots to go in and the Czech Republic team did a great job of hitting their 3’s which they pretty much did all in the first quarter.  There were six of them.  We just tried to stay aggressive … don’t get too high, don’t get too low.   It’s about how you respond.  It’s one thing you learn in school is when the other team hits you, you have to get back up and figure a way to overcome it.  That’s what we did.
What was the discussion at halftime that spurred the strong third quarter?
Defense always … keep them in front of us … not allowing them to get what they want.  When they’re on offense, pressure them so we can wear them out as quickly as possible because the depth of our team is our strength.  That’s what we did.  We stayed aggressive.  We just come in waves.  Whoever is in the game is expected to go 100 percent and when we do that, that’s when runs happen.


On Lindsay Whalen:
She’s so gritty … kind of whatever you need her to do that possession, she does.   You wouldn’t say she’s a great shooter, she’s not quick, she doesn’t jump very high, she’s not a great ball handler but whatever you need her to do at that time, she’s the best at it.   I’ve been one of her biggest fans since the Minnesota days when we played against her in that Final Four.  She’s a great player.  She does a lot of great things on the court.
On Maya Moore:
Long arms help.   Physically, she just puts so much effort into the game on that side where she takes a lot of chances and kind of makes up for it.   That helps your teams in a lot of ways to cover up a lot of mistakes and today she was great at that again.
Did the defense pick up after falling down 10-0?
Yeah, we changed some things.   Czech is a great team.  They made it to the Finals of the World Championships.   We’ve been battling against them for a long time.  We know what quality players they have.  Teams are going to have good quarters.  You’re not going to shut anyone out in this tournament or else they wouldn’t be here.   We did some things to adjust to what they were doing really well.
You struggled shooting the ball early in this tournament, how did you find our rhythm tonight?
I really didn’t focus on it much.  I’m trying to do other things.  On a team like this, scoring is probably the least of anyone’s concern because we have so many great scorers.   You really have to do a lot on the other side of the basketball so I’ve been more trying to do those things and then today I got some good looks.   Sue found me a couple of times and they went in.
On Tina Charles:
I just spent eight months were her overseas playing.  She’s just a battler.  She works hard every possession.  She makes the team work really hard.   She stays in her lane and does what she does really well and is not trying to do anything else, and that the beauty of her game.
Is this team where it needs to be at this point?
I think we’re ramping up.  I think you see every game people feel a little more comfortable, feeling like they can be a little more assertive in the things Coach wants us to do.   And its going to take time.  We have one more game to sort of get things together.

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