Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, October 03, 2014

U.S. rolls into FIBA World Championships

Less than two weeks after suffering a stunning loss to France in an international friendly, the defending champion United States team won the rematch in emphatic fashion to set up a semifinal showdown with Australia in the FIBA World Championship for Women.

The U.S. made 29 of its first 36 shots inside the 3-point line en route to a 94-72 victory in Friday's quarterfinals.

Much of the damage was done by the inside duo of Brittney Griner and former UConn star Tina Charles who were on the receiving end of passes from the starting perimeter trio of former Huskies Sue Bird, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi.

Griner had 17 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots while Charles had 15 points and seven rebounds. Lindsay Whalen came off the bench to score 13 points while Moore had 10 points, four rebounds and four assists. Taurasi had a team-high six assists while Bird had four points, three rebounds and two assists. UConn All-American Breanna Stewart had one rebound.

Former Connecticut Sun forward Sandrine Gruda had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead four players in double figures for France.

UConn incoming freshman Kia Nurse had eight points and two rebounds in Canada's 63-52 loss to Australia in the first quarterfinal.

Canada will meet France in the classification bracket at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday. With a win Canada will play in the fifth-place game on Sunday while a loss sends Canada into the seventh-place game.

On tonight’s game
When you come out and shoot the ball the way we shot it in the first half, it’s kind of difficult for the other team to kind of keep pace. We just have so many good offensive players. They’re a very physical team and they’re a very good defensive team, and they rely on their defense to keep them in games. But, the way we started the game and the way Tina (Charles) and Brittney (Griner) kind of set the tone early on.

We were able to get them established in the lane. Then we just played off of that. We have a really good group. The first group is really solid. They’ve played together a lot. Then the second group comes in and I think that’s where we have an advantage, when we sub and they sub, we feel like we have an advantage.

That second group was great. Overall, we beat a really good team tonight and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.

On playing Australia in the semifinals:
Obviously the U.S. and Australia have a history. It used to be where Russia was the team that everyone felt like was the team that everyone thought they had to work to beat. Australia’s come so far in the past few Olympics, since 2000, since the Olympics were in Sydney. It’s a shame they lost their big kid. It seems like the tables have been reversed. They lost Liz (Cambage) and we added Brittney (Griner). I thought it was going to be a great match-up between the two of them.

But, they’ve changed as a team pretty quickly. We saw them right after Liz got hurt and they didn’t look so good in France. Now when you watch them, every game they’re getting better and better and better.

Guys who were maybe kind of a role player before Liz got hurt are really playing, and really doing a lot.

This is the semifinals of the World Championship. It’s supposed to be a really hard game and it’s going to be.

The USA team lost to France (76-72) on Sept. 21. What was the difference in the two games?
I would say Brittney Griner (laughs). You know, Brittney changes games, obviously. But, our entire team played much better than we played in Paris. In Paris we were still trying to find out who was going home, who was staying. We were still trying to put our team together. And we really didn’t get a lot of really good offensive production. And we knew why. We knew we were going to fix it. But, sometimes games like that happen and you can either use it as a bad motivator for your team or you can use it as a good one. We watched film of that game and we wanted our players to know exactly what we were trying to do that game and what we were going to try to do tonight. There were never any lingering effects of that loss at all. We knew they were a good team when we played them in Paris and we knew they were going to be very good tonight.

On pounding the ball inside:

That was the plan. Obviously we have tremendous athleticism, so we just really want to get stops on the defensive end, run as fast as we can and get the ball inside. That was really one of the main things that we talked about.

On the USA’s shooting:
We were just able to generate really good shots, and we have enough players, obviously, on this team, that if you get them their looks, they are probably going to make them. And you think about it, if you look at that game, I mean I didn’t know the percentage, (someone) just told me, I was surprised, but everybody took what would be considered their shot. And we just have people who have the ability to knock them in.

How different was it having Brittney Griner this time against France?
Her presence is huge, you know. It allows us to do things on defense that you normally can’t do, be a little more aggressive. We try to keep her under that basket as much as possible. And then offensively, she’s a go-to, a presence down there. She really set the tone. They told her, get two feet in the lane, post up, and she was able to get fouled early on. She was able to score early on, and it really set the tone for everybody.

On playing Australia tomorrow: 
It’s going to be a tough game. I understand that everyone is going to look at their team, outsiders looking in, and not see the names that they are used to seeing. But, we played against them, and they are tough and they play very well together. Even though they might not have Lauren Jackson and Elizabeth Cambage and whatever, they have an identity within themselves, and they really play to it. And they still have Penny Taylor, and they still have Belinda Snell and they still have people, Erin Phillips, who have played many years and have been successful, so you cannot overlook them at all. Tomorrow’s game is going to be tough.

Can you talk about you and Brittney Griner getting the USA off to that incredible start?
She’s just a special, unique player. She’s a big target. I really enjoy playing alongside of her. I don’t think I’ll ever have another opportunity to play with somebody of her talent, her skills and just the way she approaches the game, just knowing how young she is and what she can do to impact the game. So, it’s a lot of fun to lob the ball up there, knowing she is the only one who can get it.

What about your performance?
I was just waiting for the game to come to me. Diana (Taurasi) had great passes to me off of pick-and-rolls, and just little things like that. So, I was just trying to capitalize on that.

On the USA’s shooting (41-58 FGs, 70.7 percent):
That’s phenomenal. We really take pride in representing the USA. I think Seimone (Augustus) did a great job, (Candice) Dupree coming off the bench, and Lindsay (Whalen), especially. She definitely sets the tone for that second group, and Angel (McCoughtry) as well.

On matching up against Sandrine Gruda defensively:
Just knowing that it’s a hard task, but knowing that I can definitely approach it and take ownership of it. I want to be that player that the coaching staff can depend on when it comes to having to make a defensive stop against a really good post player like Sandrine Gruda. She did a phenomenal job on us the first time.

We owed France one, so I just wanted to handle that.

What did coach say at halftime?

Just knowing that this is a second-half group as far a France goes. They can come back, don’t let up. You saw spurts where they were making a whole bunch of shots at the end, so just keeping our focus.

On Australia:

I’m looking forward to it. It was a great game when we played them in London. They don’t have Elizabeth Cambage, who is a big asset to them, as Brittney Griner is for us, but they are going to come out, compete and play hard. We respect every team that we play.


What was the difference in this game?
Just being aggressive, getting the ball inside. I thought Brittney (Griner) did a great job for us, just being tough, finishing around the rim, getting to the free throw line, on the ball a little bit, running high-low. I thought our posts did a great job of finding each other, and then when we got those stops, we were running. That’s when we’re at our best, when we rebound and get out and run. The way we moved the ball, for the most part, was one of the better games for us I think, just with the assists we had. France is a tough team. They run, we tried to slow the pressure down a little bit by picking them up full court, slowing them down a little bit. I thought overall our connectedness was as good as it’s been in awhile, in order to slow it down.


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