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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

U.S. wraps up pool play with dominating win

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi had 22 points and four steals to lead the United States to a 114-66 win over China to wrap up the top spot in Group A.

Taurasi was one of three former Huskies to score in double figures as Tina Charles and Maya Moore had 12 points each as the U.S. tied the country's single-game record for the most points scored while setting a record with 33 assists.

All U.S. players scored in the win including another impressive effort from former Louisville star Angel McCoughtry was had 16 points (on 8 of 8 shooting) to go with six rebounds, six assists, five steals, a blocked shot and no turnovers in 21 minutes. McCoughtry is the United States' top scorer (averaging 13 points per game) and also leads the team with 14 steals, 19 free throws and 23 free-throw attempts. Tina Charles (12.8 points and team-leading 8.6 rebounds), Diana Taurasi (12.2 PPG) and former Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen (10 points per game) are also scoring at least 10 points per game. As for the other former Huskies, here are their stats

Maya Moore: 9.2 points, 6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1 steal
Sue Bird: 4.6 points and a team-high 26 assists in five games
Asjha Jones: 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds
Swin Cash: 3.4 points, 1.2 rebounds

Next up is a quarterfinal game against Canada on Tuesday. It will be the first of the four quarterfinals tipping off at 2 p.m. in London (9 a.m. here in Connecticut). With a win the U.S. will play the winner of the China/Australia game in the semifinals which means there will be a new gold-medal matchup after the U.S. and Australia have met in the last three Olympic finals.

Here are quotes from UConn and U.S. coach Geno Auriemma and former Huskies Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Moore and Taurasi courtesy of USA Basketball.

Geno Auriemma
On tonight's game:
First off, there’s the way the game began, the team from China is for us especially in America it’s hard for us to play defense against them because their three point shooting and their quickness is a problem for everybody.   But, you saw the one three that the one kid made was like a 40-footer even when we had them guarded.  So, we knew that might be a problem, so we have to outscore some teams.  Some teams you’re gonna beat them just cause defensively you’re gonna be able to shut them down.  Today we came out really focused.  I thought everyone of our players was really locked into what we were trying to do.  And when Diana Taurasi plays the way she did, that is infectious; the entire team gets caught up in her and makes everybody on the team better.  When Candace Parker came in later in the first quarter and the whole second quarter changed the game completely.  So we’ve got a couple players that are game changers.  And that’s what happened today.  And having Syl (Sylvia Fowles) back is great news for us going forward and I think she showed everybody today why she’s gonna be so important this coming week.
On Diana Taurasi---Was this a conscious decision by her to step it up because we are getting in the medal round games where it gets important?
Yeah, I’ve coached Diana since before her freshman year in college.  In the US Junior Qualifying tournament, and, the first five games that we played in Argentina I think she averaged like nine points a game.  And right before we were playing Brazil I said ‘Look stop screwing around and trying get everybody involved, and we need you to get 30 tonight.’  And she got 29.  I think Diana understands more than anybody I’ve ever been around what the big stage is, when the lights are the brightest, when the games mean the most.  Today’s game against China was to win our pool, and that’s when Diana is at her best, always has been, and never lets you down, never disappoints.  And the rest of the team I think really really gets their confidence from her.  And that’s why she is who she is.   That’s why she’s won as many championships as she won.
On what teams have impressed him so far and not matching up against Australia in the Finals:
Well, that’s the problem with assuming that, I’m sure everybody in Australia thought that the finals were gonna be between the United States and Australia.  And everybody in America thought that it’s gonna be the United States and Russia or Australia….And ya know when you go into the Olympics or World Championship, you can’t make any assumptions about anything.  The French team and the Turkish team to me have been the two most surprising teams here that people weren’t talking about coming into the tournament.  With all the talk being about the US, and Russia and Australia, I think Turkey and France have had the biggest impact on our coaching staff and our players, not that we’re surprised….But, I think everybody knew that they were gonna be really good but I think they’ve played exceptionally well and it’ll be interesting to see what happens in these crossover games. 
On the second straight game starting Maya and Candace coming off the bench:
Well, I’ve always liked having three shooters in the line-up to start the game.  And by having Sue (Bird) and Dee (Diana Taurasi) and Maya (Moore), we’ve got three great three-point shooters…so it spreads the defense out and it allows Tamika (Catchings) and Tina (Charles) to start getting more single coverage inside.  Having Candace come off the bench, you saw what she did today.  When she came in off the bench she changed the game completely, because whoever she’s playing against is tired and whoever the other team brings in isn’t as good as her.  So she’s got a huge advantage in that situation.  And maybe she’s pissed at me ‘cause I’m not starting her and that’s why she’s playing the way she does, ya know what, I’m okay with that.
On playing half-court offense in fourth quarter:
Once it got to a point where the game was over, there’s no point in just running transition basket after transition basket, that doesn’t help them, doesn’t help us, it doesn’t help anybody.  So, there was a point where we just said ‘that’s it, no more’. 
On the scoring record and falling short of it:
As far as records I had no idea, I had no idea what the record was, I wasn’t, and even if somebody would have told me, I could care less.  I remember at Connecticut taking kids out and somebody would tell me on the bench ‘Hey, I need two more points to set this record’, tough, they haven’t set it by now I’m not putting them in now just to set it.  I don’t buy that, I don’t believe in that, it either happens while you’re playing, so, you’re not going to win Olympic Gold medal by just running up and down the floor, they’re going to have to be really good in the half court set.  So any opportunity that you get to do that you take advantage of.   We haven’t had much practice, so any opportunity that we get to work together really helps us.

Sue Bird
About France who many feel next to the U.S. is playing the best basketball right now.
I think they have experience, they have a team that’s hungry, a team that didn’t qualify for the Olympics four years ago (in 2008). So for some them, someone like Edwidge (Lawson-Wade), she’s a leader on that team and even though her Olympic experience may not be the same as for some other players, believe me she has played in a lot of big games.  Yeah, and then there is their size, their versatility.  They’re probably the one team that can really change it up with their lineups and how big they can go. Just from watching them I know it’s going to be tough and we played them in the world championship two years ago and that was our toughest game.
You guys set the assist record and put up 114 points.
I think that speaks to our talent, our unselfishness and just us playing together. It was as simple as finding the open person and getting them the ball. We have such great shooters and people who can do some pretty amazing things with the ball to create some easy shots. I think that’s all it was.
How much fun was this game?
It was a lot of fun and for a point guard, just very easy. This is the easiest job in the world right now, just kind of pass it to these players and let them do the rest.
Were you surprised how easy this was?
Yes and no. China is a tough team and I know the scoredoesn’t necessarily tell the story, but they make you work. They’re very disciplined and the minute you make a mistake they capitalize on it, that’s always how they’ve been historically in my experience. Even though the score kind of said one thing, it wasn’t easy, I just personally meant for a point guard to be able to just pass was easy.
Looking to next game
Now is when the real tournament starts; now it’s one and done and you have to come and play every night, you can’t have an off night unlike pool play where maybe you can and potentially recover from it. There’s no recovering from losing in the quarters, semis or final. So it’s one and done now.

Swin Cash
The team looked really good tonight, do you see an improvement from your first game?

I thought it was our best game thus far. You can really see that as the games have progressed, we’ve really started to gel. That’s important going into the next round, which for us is the big dance.
On the assist record:
We just have a team of super stars who are very unselfish and understand what the goal is at hand. I think it makes everyone’s job a lot easier when you have a team that’s built like that.
On the return of Sylvia Fowles:
It’s really important to have her back. If you look at what’s possibly down the road for us in match-ups, it’s great to have Syl back, because she’s a big presence, a big body inside. Her ability to command double teams opens things up for our shooters as well. With a versatile team like ours, we’re going to need all hands on deck.
Does it take a while to come together?
It takes a while, but we’ve been getting our practice through games and letting coach see different combinations on the floor and now it’s go time.
Are you bonding with the younger Huskies.
I think we’ve all had a bond coming into this game, obviously I’ve played with some of them during the World Championship (201), but right now it’s just all about our team and that one goal we have.

Maya Moore

Can a game like this be a double-edged sword because you win so easily and then you go to the quarterfinals and you relax?
It can if you let it.  I don’t think we’re that type of a team I think we’ve got too many veterans and too much experience to let that happen.  That kind of a thing is purely up to us and our mind set so we want to make sure were getting better every game and that’s what we’ve tried to do. We try not to play to the score. We want to play and evaluate our efforts and performance base on our standards.
About facing Canada next in the quarterfinals.                                                                                    
They’re tough, scrappy team, that never quits. Every team that they play they’re going to make you earn it. That’s exactly the kind of ball game we want. We want to face the best and Canada is next for us.
Considering the dominance of this team is it just about winning or is it about dominating?
Winning is the goal obviously, to get the W. But you want to do it in the best way possible and for us we know that we’re capable of dominating. We want to make sure that everybody comes in and brings what they do best out on the court and some how do that all at the same time. And that’s the challenge of coming together as a national team with so many greatest players is finding out what my role is. I don’t necessarily have to do as many things as I do on my WNBA team. If I’m good at running the break and finishing an alley-oop I’m not going to try and necessarily bring it up and cross five people over, I’m going to pass to Lindsay Whalen and run ahead and get it and finish.

Diana Taurasi

On how the team is feeling:
I mean, we feel good, we feel like we have improved every game a little bit.  And that’s what we, that’s what our goal for these pool play games and now it’s time to play the real games where if you don’t bring your best effort you’re probably going home.
On preparing for Quarterfinals:
We will have practice tomorrow. Work on the things that we’ll need for Canada and then go from there.
On things coming together:
I think so.  And you can really see it when we share the ball like that.  When you start getting the concept of how we want to play and how many great players we have and you gotta give yourself and your teammates an opportunity to do that.  And I think we’re getting to that point.
Is it easier for people like you that understand Geno’s system, or is that irrelevant?
No, I mean obviously his philosophy and the things that he wants done, playing for him helps you get there.  But, I think his concepts really are play as a team, play really hard.  And I think anyone can relate to that.
On peaking at the right time:
Yeah, I mean this was the first game that meant something.  First place in our group.  To win all five games against five really good teams, I think is a good step for us.  And now on to the next round.
On the half-court defense and half-court trap:
I mean that’s our strength, the depth of our team, the energy, the athleticism. And today I think you saw that throughout the forty minutes.  And it really helps us on both ends get easy baskets being able to get back into that pressure.  And I thought today we did a good job.
Was tonight the most effective and complete game you played as a team in the tournament?
Probably, I’m sure we will go back and watch a little film and won’t feel like it.  But, I think people are starting to feel a little bit more comfortable.  Starting to feel like what we need from each other to be really good and that alone is a good feeling.
How are you feeling offensively, is it more of a comfort factor, or is it what they need from you in these games?
Um, it’s a little bit of everything.  You know, if you go through three games and you don’t adjust anything well then you’re not a very good basketball player.  So I’ve had to adjust a little bit in the things that I was doing to make sure that you know I help this team in whatever way. And I think everyone feels that way.

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