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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Former UConn star Maya Moore leads U.S. to world title

Former UConn star Maya Moore scored 16 of her game-high 18 points in the first half to lead the United States team to its second straight FIBA World Championship for Women with a 77-64 win over Spain. Moore was named the tournament's MVP after leading the U.S. in scoring with an average of 15.2 points per game. She was also 14 of 27 from the 3-point line and her 3-point field goal percentage was tied for the fourth best in tournament history by a U.S. player and best number since 2002.

Lindsay Whalen came off the bench to add 12 points while former UConn star Tina Charles finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists as the U.S. won its ninth World Championship.

Seimone Augustus also scored in double figures as she finished with 10 points and six rebounds off the bench while Brittney Griner added 11 points.

Former UConn star Sue Bird, the first U.S. player to appear in four World Championships, had three assists and three steals and Diana Taurasi, her former teammate with the Huskies, had six points, four rebounds and eight assists.

UConn All-American Breanna Stewart did not score.

It is the second straight World Championship for the U.S. under the direction of UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

Sancho Lyttle, who came into the game averaging 18.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds for Spain while former Connecticut Sun draft pick Alba Torrens had 10 points.

The U.S. clinched a berth in the 2016 Olympics by winning the World Championship.

Here are quotes from Auriemma, Bird, Moore and Stewart courtesy of USA Basketball

GENO AURIEMMA
On winning his second FIBA World Championship:
 It’s very difficult to win these championships. There’s a lot of great teams and they’re getting better all the time. You can tell by the games, and it’s really, really difficult. For us to be able to do that, even though everybody expects us to do it, that doesn’t make it easier. Yesterday’s Australia’s game and today’s game against Spain were perfect examples of how difficult this is to win. I’m really proud of our team. These guys make a great sacrifice, because they just finished playing in their own league, in the WNBA and a lot of them are getting ready to go play in Europe. So, it’s a tremendous sacrifice that they made for their country and I can’t be more proud of them.

What do you think of the competition and do you think that one day people will be able to close the gap with the USA?
 It goes in cycles. It’s true; we did win in 2010 at the World Championship. But in 2006, we lost. So, it’s not like we’re going to win every year no matter what. We still have to get our best players to play together. There are more good teams than there were, say 10, 12, 14 years ago, from what I remember. There’s just more good teams. The games become more popular and there’s more support for the teams overseas. So, we don’t expect to win every single year. Just the year that we’re playing (laughs).

What was the most difficult part of winning this championship?
 I think for us, it’s usually that we don’t have a lot of time together. So, we know we’re not really prepared for everything. Diana (Taurasi) and Candice (Dupree) got here at the last minute and Brittney (Griner) got here even later than that. We’re just not ready for everything that happens. So, some things we struggle with. So, the biggest thing for us to overcome is on defense most of the time, believe it or not.¬† We have a lot of great offensive players. So, we try to take advantage of that and most of the time it works.

We had a very difficult draw also. We played France in the quarterfinal game. That’s a really difficult quarterfinal game, and Australia in the semifinals, and then Spain. So, we had a very difficult road and sometimes we had to make things up as we go along and usually we find a way.

What was your focus on Spain?
 We went into the game understanding that Alba (Torrens) and Sancho (Lyttle) were going to be really, really key for everything that Spain would accomplish throughout the game. We also knew that they were a great offensive rebounding team. They’re maybe the best offensive rebounding team in the entire tournament. In the first half we did a great job of guarding those two guys, but we didn’t do a great job of keeping them off the glass. I know we scored 40-some points in the first half, I don’t even know how many, but we could have scored a lot more points if we had gotten out in transition after those missed shots. But, they worked exceptionally hard. I think we got most of the stuff accomplished today. We did a great job on the two of them. We didn’t necessarily do a great job on the rebounding, but we shot high percentage. Just like a lot of other times in basketball, when you shoot the ball really well, it covers up a whole lot of other things that maybe you did poorly.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
On tonight’s game:
 Obviously today was a great win for us. Obviously we had one goal the entire time this team’s been together and that was to win a gold medal. Coach Auriemma in the locker room said it best, a lot of people look at this team and see a lot of talent and think it’s going to be easy. But, it’s not. Whenever you can win a gold medal and it’s been a tough journey, it feels even better at the end. Everyone’s really happy and really excited about the medal and I’m definitely proud of this team.

On being the most decorated athlete (three gold medals, one bronze medal) in FIBA World Championship history, men or women. What does that mean to you?
 I know when I hear 2006 (when the USA returned with the bronze medal), it still makes me mad. But, I don’t really know how to feel about it right now to be honest. It’s kind of surreal. I’m sure it’s one of those things, when I get older and look back and reflect, it’ll probably hit me a little more than it is right now. But, I do know that I’ve been very lucky to play for some amazing coaches alongside some amazing teammates and I know that I’m just been one player. I happen to have been to four Worlds, but I definitely didn’t do anything by myself, that’s for sure. Looking back I’m sure it’ll hit me, but right now I’m just enjoying this one.


Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
On tonight’s game:
 Coming into the game we were all really excited, just knowing that so many of us have been in this position to compete for a title. We played better and better each game, coming together, especially offensively, getting a feel for each other and knowing how each other moves and where we’re going to be. It was really fun to watch that develop and today we were able to do that one last time and finish our journey together. Every team that came here played with so much heart and so much passion, so to overcome all the teams that have been working together for months was really satisfying.¬†

How much more can this team evolve for Rio in 2016?
 Well, you can every single player, ‘Could you have done something better?’ And each one of us will say, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ It’s the beauty of basketball; you’re never really done. There’s always to improve. It’s such a fluid game. There’s always things you can tweak and improve upon and be better. So, that’s the challenge and that’s why we come in practice every day. We of course come to win the game, but ultimately we want to win playing well together. As long as there’s another game, there’s another opportunity to be better.

So, every time we have a training camp, whenever we come together, that’s our goal: to play beautiful basketball together. With this group it was easy at times, just because there are so many great players. But, it’s always a grind. You’re always trying to compete and work and get better, and two years from now some of the younger players that you saw will be even better and the players who are a little bit older will be even more experienced and I’m excited to see what that looks like.

On earning MVP:
 It hasn’t really hit me. I’m just excited that we won. If one of us is talking about what MVP means, it means our team won. So, that’s what I’m most excited about. I’m just grateful to be able to contribute to this phenomenal team. Just the legacy of USA Basketball is unpatrolled. To have participated with USA Basketball since I was a teenager is really cool. Just to be healthy enough to be here, and to have the coaching staff and the people that helped make us look great and put us in positions to be ourselves is really awesome. International basketball, you can’t get any bigger. You’re competing on the world stage and there’s so many emotions wrapped up in it from different teams, from different countries. You’ve got family and friends who have come so long to come support us and you feel that extra special appreciation, because you’re playing with players that you’ll probably going to be competing against the majority of your career. To enjoy that camaraderie for the month that we’re together is pretty memorable.¬†

Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut)
On winning alongside her UConn family:
 It is special. Obviously, when you grow and get to UConn, you realize how much your family has grown, and the fact that I’m able to celebrate this with not only my coaches, but also people who have played at UConn before me, and the road that they have paved for us.

Are you ready to go back to school?
 I’m actually looking forward to seeing my teammates and my friends again, but I could do this for a little bit. It’s been a great experience, and I’m glad to be able to be here.





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