Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Former UConn stars help U.S. outlast Serbia

The final score won't paint an accurate portrayal of how hard the United States team had to work to beat Serbia in the FIBA World Championship for Women on Sunday.

The U.S. used its superior depth to pull away late and post an 94-74 victory to improve to 2-0 in  Group D play.

Former UConn stars Diana Taurasi (20 points, 5 3-pointers), Maya Moore (17 points, 12 rebounds, six assists) and Tina Charles (10 points, 7 rebounds) played starring roles in the U,S. win. Brittney Griner was the other double-digit scorer for the U.S. finishing with 10 points and 7 rebounds. Former Husky Sue Bird finished with seven points and two assists.

UConn junior Breanna Stewart played the final 40.7 seconds but did not score for the U.S. which wraps up pool play against Angola on Tuesday.

Geno Auriemma

On tonight’s game being so close through three quarters:
I think sometimes on the outside, people think you just show up, roll the ball out and we have 25 points right away. It doesn’t work that way. These are national teams. They have players that are good. They know how to make shots, they know how to play. They’re experienced. They play well together. So, it takes us time because this is our training camp. These games are kind of like our training camp. These last five or six games we played in Paris and here.

That’s a really, really good team that plays with a lot of heart, that plays with a lot of passion. I’m not surprised that the game was difficult. But, we have some amazing players on our team that when the game is to be won, they make winning plays.

What were some of the things that you might change up for future games?

I don’t know that there’s anything that we would change. I think every game we’re trying to figure out defensively what works and what doesn’t. That’s the hardest part to teach when you’re not together for a long time, because defense takes five players playing as one, talking and communicating. So, we have to keep getting better defensively. Our offense is going to be there. We’re going to score points every night, we have too many good players. So, every day it’s about how we can get better on defense.

What was the difference in the fourth quarter?
We didn’t foul them, so we didn’t put them on the free throw line. It seemed like every quarter they were in the bonus right away. Then in the fourth quarter we didn’t put them on the free throw line and they had to earn shots. The effect of having to play that fast and that hard for 30 minutes, 35 minutes, I think that fourth quarter caught up with them. They didn’t have the same legs to make the plays to get to the basket. So, I just think that our depth, we have 10 players out there and that had a lot to do with it.

Are these two games enough to judge how well the team play is right now?
A little bit. I think it’s been pretty indicative of what we expect. The old format of the World Championship where you had to play nine games, that was good for us, because you had six games to get ready for the medal round. So, we were able to, little by little by little (get better). We just got Brittney Griner two days ago. We just got Candice (Dupree) and Dee (Taurasi) a week ago. We used to use those six games to (get better). So, right now we’re just trying to get ready for the weekend, for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So, I’m not surprised by the games that they’re close, close, close and then we take off. I don’t expect us to be up 25 points at halftime. It’s just not normal. Not for us, not right now. If maybe we practice for two months, every one of us, maybe, but we have so much respect for all the other teams in the tournament. I think we play that way. We have a lot of respect for all the teams we play. We don’t expect to come out here and just win because we’re the United States. We know we have to play. I think that’s good for us. The first two games, we had to play. And that’s good, because were we able to come in and win 90-50, I don’t know that that would help us next weekend. So, I think that these two games are going to help us moving forward.

On Serbia’s fast pace:
They want to play fast. They want to push the tempo, and that’s how we want to play. What we were trying to do is make sure that if they wanted to play fast, then we would play fast and we would just keep bringing in new players and just keep pushing the tempo, and pushing the tempo. We got 58 rebounds tonight. That’s a lot of rebounds. And we made more 3s than them, which didn’t look like it, because it looked like they made a bunch. But, it’s good for us to face some adversity. I thought the officiating was very interesting there for a while. So, these are the kinds of things that you have to overcome, especially when you’re the United States.

We know there are a lot of obstacles, and this team was one of them. This team is going to win a lot of games. They’re well coached, and they’re a very good team.

Tina Charles 

On tonight’s game:
It was extremely tough. They’re a great team, spreading the court, going one-on-one. Ana Dobovic played great. I played with her in Moscow this past season. She was just making shots and being an offensive threat for her team.

How were you able to slow her down in the second half?
Just playing tough defense. Just following the defensive scheme on what we were doing out there on the defensive screens for Ana. I think Maya (Moore) did a great job, and our post players were trying to get in the lane and corralled her.

How frustrating is it to have so many quick fouls?
It’s extremely frustrating. We play in the WNBA, and it’s the same thing - five fouls and you’re in the bonus. The other team’s shooting. It gives them a great advantage. It puts us into the position where we only get five fouls here, so we have great players on the bench (in foul trouble). It also gives the other team confidence. So, it’s extremely hard.

How were you able to pull away in the fourth quarter?
Just playing with poise. We have some great players who make big time plays -- Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi -- they did great. They’re our leaders offensively right now. Seimone Augustus did a great job coming off the bench and so did Nneka (Ogwumike), just getting rebounds.

Maya Moore
On the game:

The game was very fast. Serbia did a great job of trying to speed the game up and make it a little chaotic with their defensive aggression. But, I thought after we continued to be aggressive, just as aggressive, and being smarter and aggressive, it really paid off for us, and we were really able to push the lead out. And just coming up and hitting big shots we needed to, and our defense was excellent in the second half.

On the fourth quarter defense:
We just had to keep doing what we were doing. Our leaders stepped up, and whether it was getting a key bucket, getting a defensive stop that we needed to and everybody continuing to get on the same page.

We haven’t been together as long as some of these other teams, so we are just continuing to work out the kinks, believing in each other, staying positive and bringing a lot of energy if it was your turn to come in.

How important is the USA depth?
It’s very important. That’s what is going to eventually give us the edge is our depth and being able to know at any point, if that is what you are here to do, you do it. For a couple of us scoring is definitely at the top of the list, and I know whenever I have the chance to score, I’m going to take it, and try to vary it up, whether it’s getting a offensive rebound, hitting a three, out in transition and then trying to find my teammates when I’m starting to get hot. So, we had a nice balance that way, and I was really pleased with people, in the second half especially, stepping up and doing what they do.

On facing adversity:
The adversity is good for us at this point, just because we need to be able to have these tests. Because of our lack of time together, having these tests is really crucial in building our identity and having an opportunity to work out what we say we want to be. So, it’s just really good to see the way we responded, and stayed with it and stayed together.

Diana Taurasi
You hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, were you rolling or was that focus? What would you say?

I don’t think any of us were rolling. Maya kept us in it in the first half with a couple of big plays. We got a little lead going into the second half, but we really couldn’t pull away in that third. Every time we would make a mini-run, they would come back (and) score. Serbia’s a good team. In the fourth we got some more stops, and luckily we pulled away at the end.

It was a 20-point win, but do you think the game was harder than the score indicated?
It was a tough game. Every possession was a battle. They made us work on defense. There are some things we probably got to clean up. These games are good for us. This team hasn’t been together very long. In the two weeks that we’ve been together, we’ve been battle-tested a couple of times, which in the long run will only help us.


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