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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Former UConn stars Charles, Moore and Taurasi lead U.S. to World Championship final

Bitter rival Australia predictably gave the United States a tough test before the defending champions advance to the gold medal game in the FIBA World Championship for Women.

Former UConn stars Tina Charles and Maya Moore played starring roles in the 82-70 victory as Charles had 18 points and nine rebounds while Moore had 16 points, five rebounds and five assists. Fellow former Husky Diana Taurasi had 11 points, none bigger than a jumper early in the fourth quarter when Australia had cut the lead to six points. Former UConn star Sue Bird had two points, three rebounds and two steals and UConn All-American Breanna Stewart had one rebound.

Former Connecticut Sun guard Erin Phillips led Australia with 19 points.

The U.S. will play Spain in the title game on Sunday at 2:15 p.m. in a game to be aired live on ESPN2.

USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)

On tonight’s game

We knew going into the game that it was going to be hard, no matter what the final score was going to be. We knew that we would feel it after the game; that it was going to be a hard-fought, very physical kind of a game. After that first quarter, we did a really, really good job of keeping Australia off the free throw line. I think they were averaging taking 27 free throws a game coming into this game, and I think they attempted 15. They were shooting 27 of them, so we wanted to concentrate a lot on keeping them off the free-throw line. I think they shot 10 in the first quarter. And after that we did a great job, we made a really strategic coaching decision. We said, ‘don’t let them shoot any more free throws. Just let them shoot wide-open 3s,’ and they made seven of them in the second half. So, that really worked out great for us (joking).

On the play of Tina Charles against Australia and throughout the tournament:

You’re right. She’s been playing exceptionally well the entire tournament. But when Brittney Griner’s in the building, that’s where all the focus is going to be from everyone. Tonight we kind of had an idea of how physical Australia was going to be with Brittney, and this is her first time through this. So, I’m not sure she’s had enough experience playing against these kinds of players on a regular basis, and Tina has. So, tonight you saw the experience that Tina has, and she played a lot of minutes, too. She played 31 minutes. Tina’s doing a lot of little things that maybe don’t even show on the boxscore. Some of the little things that she’s doing, whether it’s getting through a screen or making a pass to somebody, tipping the ball, kind of like Nneka (Ogwumike). Sometimes these guys do things that don’t end up big on the stat sheet, but they keep possessions alive, they get big buckets when the other guys are making a run. I’m not surprised, but I couldn’t be happier for Tina.

On Spain:
Spain deserves to be in the championship game. They deserve to be there because they played well the whole tournament and because they beat the home team in front of a great crowd in a great game. They have earned their way to the game tomorrow. So, I don’t think they’re looking at us and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to play the United States.’ I think that what they did today was very impressive.

Tina Charles (New York Liberty)

On her performance tonight:

I know my role on the team – get on the boards finish when I can; if you get it in the post just make a great post move. B.G. (Brittney Griner) got in foul trouble, so it put a lot on my mind, just how I had to be there and stay out of foul trouble myself. So, I was just taking what the game gave me.

On the game against Australia:

We knew it was going to be tough. We haven’t taken anything for granted since the start of this tournament. Australia played aggressive, especially without Elizabeth Cambage, who is really their centerpiece. We just answered, we just responded really well.

On playing Spain:

It’s going to be really tough. Again, every player here, every team here got here for a reason, same way we got here. So, we’re looking forward to it. They have a great player with Alba Torrens and Laia (Palau), and a great inside game. We really look forward to it.

Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) 

On the game:

I thought we came out pretty well with our defensive focus and moved the ball, putting people in positions to score. I’m not sure how many assists we had, but I felt like we were finding each other. In the second half, we did a much better job of keeping them off the free throw line. We gave up a few too many 3s, more than we would have liked, and we had a few moments where we gave up some offensive boards.

But overall, I thought we dominated defensively with our pressure and limiting them to one shot.

On playing Spain:

I’m excited. It should be a really great matchup as far as the two best teams in the tournament, I think, meeting in the gold medal game. Spain has a lot of great weapons, offensive talent, some versatile posts, guards that are pretty slippery and can get to the paint. So, we are going to have our hands full. It’s going to take a lot of focus and determination on our end, but I think we use our physicality well, and if we come with the same defensive focus, we will be great.


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