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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Former UConn star Maya Moore leads U.S. past Angola

Former UConn star Maya Moore is second leading scorer in FIBA
World Championships through pool play averaging 16 per game
Former UConn star Maya Moore had 16 points and three rebounds as the United States wrapped up a perfect run through pool play at the FIBA World Championship for Women with a 119-44 win over Angola as the U.S. posted its largest margin of victory in the world championships and the 119 points matched the highest total for the U.S. in the event's history.

Nneka Ogwumike led the U.S. with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Seimone Augustus and Brittney Griner had 15 points each for the U.S., which is off until Friday's quarterfinals.

UConn junior Breanna Stewart finished with 9 points (going 7 of 7 from free-throw line) and six rebounds, Tina Charles had seven points and four rebounds, Diana Taurasi had five points and five assists and Sue Bird added two points and three assists.

The U.S. had already secured a spot in Friday's quarterfinals before playing Angola and will play either France or Brazil with a potential semifinal date with rival Australia looming.

Geno Auriemma
What does it mean to have won by 75 points?
I don’t think it means anything. We have a lot more talent than Angola. We have more experienced players. I don’t think there’s anything they could have done to prevent what happened. When we take our starting five out and we put another five in that’s just as experienced, even though some of them are young. So, I think the score is not a reflection that Angola doesn’t play hard or they didn’t play well. We just have that many good players, that’s all that is. It doesn’t mean anything.

If we had won by this much and we had played really poorly, and we had won by this much, it’s because we have more talent than Angola, I’d be a little disappointed. But, I thought we played really, really well. I thought our offensive chemistry was really good. The ball moved really well. We got the ball in the lane a lot. I like the old format where we had six games before the medal round. It gave us more of an opportunity to be together and play games. This new format I don’t think helps us as much as the other format, but it is what it is. We have to get good real quick, and I think we’re going to be OK.

What were you focusing on tonight?
We want to concentrate on a few things that we think we’ve got to get better at, and we did. We were a little worried that we weren’t getting the ball in the lane enough, and tonight in that first quarter, that ball got into the lane a lot and often, and early in the possession. And the other thing was that we wanted to defensively stay out of the bonus, because that’s been hurting us a little bit, keep the ball out of the lane, because that was hurting us a little bit. And I thought we did a great job on both counts.

Thoughts on the quarterfinals, where the USA will play the winner of tomorrow’s France-Brazil game:

We know France; we just played them recently. I really haven’t seen Brazil much. Our coaches have gone out

to see them. Either way, when you get to this point, into the quarterfinals, you get to the medal rounds, it’s not

like you can afford to lose a game, you can’t afford to play poorly. You’re looking at one bad night and you go

home. So, our players understand that and whoever we play, whether it’s France or Brazil, we’ll be ready.

On everyone contributing:

We have a really good team. We have a really good group of kids. They communicate well with each other,

they play hard, they’re very respectful of each other’s abilities. We don’t have anybody out there trying to prove

that they’re better than anybody else. It’s been a great group to coach so far, and I’m looking forward to a great

weekend.

Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx)

What were you working on tonight?

Just being efficient and consistent and being the aggressor. Coach talked about coming out, being the one who

punched first. It started with the starting five. They brought great energy, and it trickled down to the second

five. We just wanted to come out and maintain what the starting five established on the floor.

Is it hard to stay focused in a game like this?

It’s not hard at all because you’re focusing on yourself. We know we have big games coming up that really

count, so you can’t lose focus on what the bigger picture is, which is trying to get the gold medal here at the

World Championship.

Do you feel the team has improved over these three games?

Yes. Now that everybody’s here, we have our 12 women, it’s kind of coming together. You can see the

cohesion of the starting five. And then the second five that comes in, the things that we do are starting to show

out on the court now.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)

What do you work on as a team in a game like this?

Obviously we knew there was a chance the game would be a little lopsided, but we weren’t really focused on

that. We were focused on ourselves and trying to get better. That’s always how it is with the national team,

really. We never have a lot of time to practice. We never have a chance to really develop a chemistry, so we

can’t take any night off, and that includes a game like this with a score as lopsided as it was.

What kind of things were you working on?

There actually were some things we were specifically working on: getting off to better starts and then

basketball-wise, working on a zone, working on certain plays and things like that. But, really it was all about us.

Coach talked about respecting your opponent and going out there playing well, but also playing up to our ability

as opposed to playing to another team’s level.

Have you seen the chemistry start to grow over these past three games?

Definitely. When I think back to some of the scrimmages and practices in Annapolis, the Red-White game, the

games against Canada, since then we’ve added people, but it’s just gotten better and better. I think everyone is

starting to get comfortable. And that’s huge. Comfort is a big part of basketball when you’re playing with new

teammates. So, the more steps you’re taking in that direction, the better.

Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury)

How difficult is it to play a game like this?

You have to stay as focused as possible. You have to prepare for the next three games. So, we tried to use it to

do some different stuff. Coach was trying to get us into some zone a little bit, pressuring the ball, one-on-one,

man-to-man defense. It’s not always easy, but we were able to get it done.

What did you think about Angola’s team?

They played extremely hard for 40 minutes. When you see that you have the United States in your group, it’s

not always easy because we have so much depth. But, they kept fighting for 40 minutes, and they never let

down.

How do you stay focused during a game like that?

What I’m focused on personally is working hard to make that team two years from now. So, I can’t go out there

and slack off. But, as a team, as a unit, the biggest thing is preparing defensively for what we have ahead, and

that was the big thing that coach told us before the game in order to earn our off day.

Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)

Is it tough to stay focused with a big lead like against Angola?

No. You always want to work forward, towards teams that we might meet. You don’t want to play down.

You don’t want to play to the score. You don’t want to go on cruise control. When you have a game like

this, you start working on other things to get you ready for your next opponent, and I think we did that

today. I think we came out, we played and we never let off. No matter what the score was, we wanted to

play hard and play to the best of our ability.

We saw how excited Angola was after the game to take pictures with you guys. That’s kind of rare, isn’t it?

It was a little strange, but they were real cool, and on the court they were cool, too. Blocking shots, one

of them with the pink hair came up to me and (wags finger) and was like, ‘No more, no more.’ I was

like, ‘Sorry, I have to,’ But they were cool. We’ve taken some more photos actually.

She gave you the finger wag?

She did the finger wag. She was like, ‘No more, no more, no more.’ I was like, ‘I think I’m supposed to do

the finger wag.’

On all 12 players getting a lot of playing time:

It was really good to get O (Odyssey Sims) out there, get Stew (Breanna Stewart) out there as well. You

know, it’s just going to help with their careers, and you never know when somebody is going to have to

step up, so to get them out there, get them some minutes, more experience, it was good.

This is your first FIBA World Championship, too:

First Worlds ... First Worlds, but not my first time with Geno, you know, with Coach Auriemma, but first

Worlds. It’s been good. I’m kind of happy that we opened up with China, some familiar faces, and then

yesterday we played Serbia and then Angola today. So, I’m feeling good, feeling really good with my

performance.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)

On the game:

I thought it was good. We came in focusing on ourselves. Coach has been saying, no matter who we are

playing, we have to focus on ourselves the whole time to get better, and I thought we did a good job of

maintaining that all four quarters.

We saw how excited Angola was after the game to take pictures with you guys. Can you talk about that?

Everyone here has been really friendly. We’ve had teams wish us luck, and we’ve had teams like that,

who were friendly with us before and after the game. It’s a great atmosphere, and I think we support each

other, just being basketball players. It’s a global culture, so for us to be able to experience that with them

and them experience that with us is special.

How much as playing in FIBA competitions helped you?

Drastically. Playing USA ball is a lot different than playing in college in the WNBA, and it’s a lot like

playing overseas, obviously, because we have international play. But, it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been

able to play with a lot of great players, and against the world’s best players, so to get that experience is

something that you really can’t get anywhere else, obviously, unless you play overseas.

Odyssey Sims

On the game:

We did play well, but we can always get better, every practice, every shoot around, even during the game.

Everybody is still learning, so there is a teaching point always, and we learn from our mistakes and try to

build on them.

On her playing time:

It was fun. We were winning by a lot, so I had a great experience, and I’m still learning.

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