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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

U.S. wins opener in FIBA World Championships

Former UConn star Maya Moore had 15 points and eight rebounds and Tina Charles added 15 rebounds as the United States defeated China 87-56 in the opening game in the FIBA World Championship for Women.

Diana Taurasi had eight points, three rebounds and three assists, Sue Bird had four points, three rebounds and three assists while UConn junior Breanna Stewart had two points and three rebounds.

Here are quotes from Geno Auriemma, Moore, Stewart and Brittney Griner courtesy of USA Basketball.


USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)

On tonight’s game:
It’s the kind of game that you would hope to have as the first game of the tournament, where you have to play really well against China defensively because they do a lot of good stuff on the offensive end. And we didn’t make any shots in the first half at all. I think in one possession we had six shots at the basket and five of them were inside a foot-and-a-half, two feet. So, when we went in at halftime we talked about it, and then stuff started going in. So, it was good that we started the game in the first half under a little bit of duress and we finished the game on a high, so that’s great going into tomorrow against another really good team in Serbia.

What was it like coaching Brittney Griner for the first time on the world stage?
I agree with Brittney. It’s difficult joining the team with only two practices and then we’re playing after we’ve been together, not a long time, but we’ve been together since Sept. 8 here and there. So, it’s not easy. Then, coming off the injury that she had with her eye. But, she picks things up very quickly. She’s very alert, very aware. She’s really a smart basketball player. She really knows what’s going on, and she asked me today, ‘Coach, if I make a mistake on offense, what do you want me to do?’ I said, ‘Well, what do you normally do back home?’ She said, ‘screen for Dee and then go post up.’ I said, ‘That sounds like a winner to me. How about we stay with that?’

What do you know about Serbia, your next opponent?
We haven’t seen much of them. We didn’t see them in the Czech Republic or London. But, I had seen them when we were scouting the European Championship. They’re really tough. They’re really aggressive. They put a lot of pressure on you with their defense. They play an aggressive kind of offense, where they’re attacking you all the time. It’s a country that has a tremendous culture of basketball. Since I’ve been a part of the national team program, I’ve never played them. So, I’m really anxious for the game tomorrow. At this point, you just have to make sure that you’re ready for anything and that you just play as well as you’re capable of playing.

Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
On tonight’s game:
I was happy that we got the win. I was happy that I remembered the plays, just getting with the team. I think we did well. There’s always room to grow, to get better. I think we can rebound a little bit better, myself going to get some more boards.

How did it feel to get into your first FIBA World Championship game?
It felt good. It was an easy transition. Coach made it easy for me, worked with me in practice. It’s like having four other coaches out there on the court. Everyone is out there helping me out and making sure that it’s a smooth first game and experience for me. So, it’s been really easy for me, honestly, for this first game on the world stage.

Was it tough out there at all getting into a rhythm?
I was a little winded the first quarter. But, other than that, as far as the plays, picking up the plays, it was like having four other coaches out there. They were talking me through it, jump-starting my memory. I just needed to know where I needed to go. I remembered, but I just needed a jump-start here and there. They do a great job with helping me. But, when we get a rebound and get out there and run, honestly we don’t need too many plays. In transition it’s pretty easy, just run with it. Run with the numbers.

You played five games for coach Auriemma on the USA National Team’s 2011 European Tour. Did that help you get acclimated a little easier?
Yeah, definitely. Those five games I played back when I was in college had me familiar with coach and with some of the girls as well. It definitely helped me out with this and knowing what to expect in these games.

Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)

On the USA’s shooting struggles in the first half:
Sometimes you get open shots and for whatever reason, they’re just a little off. We just kept taking those same open looks, and they were falling. It’s the first game of the tournament, shake off a little rust or whatever, don’t think about it too much and keep playing.

On the play of Brittney Griner:
I thought B.G. was really solid for us. She put herself in great positions to score. She was really poised when she got the ball, above her head, closer to the rim. She was very solid for us, and I’m very pleased with how she started off, considering the eye issues. It was really great to see that from her coming in with not a lot of practice.

On her pass that fed Griner for the dunk:
Going to the hole, her man helped off and I tried to give it to her so she could finish. And she did.

The pass of the tournament might be overshadowed by that dunk:
(laughs) I’m just happy we made a good play.

Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut)

What was it like playing in your first FIBA World Championship game?
It was cool. I think that it’s something we were really looking forward to as we’ve gone through practices each week.

We’ve gotten closer and closer to this, and now this is just the first game of six and we’re going to look towards tomorrow’s game.

You’ve played up on most of your USA Basketball teams. How different is it this time as opposed to playing up on some of the junior teams?

I think it’s like starting over again. I started out, and I was the youngest. Then I got to where I was the oldest on the team. Now I’m back to being young and learning from these players, and at the same time I’m realizing how much stronger everyone is at this level.

How fun is it to play with this talented group of athletes?
It’s awesome. It’s an amazing experience. These players are obviously some of the best players in the country, some of the best players in the world. To be able to be here and learn as much as I can from them, and then take it back to my team when it’s all said and done is just amazing.

Who have you learned from the most?
I don’t know. Just bits and pieces from everyone, how they handle themselves, how they prepare for practice, the way they go through practice. Then, how it correlates onto the court during the games.

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