Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Catching up with former UConn star Morgan Tuck

The month without basketball games to play took some time for former UConn star Morgan Tuck to get used to.

Tuck, a rookie forward with the Connecticut Sun, did watch plenty of basketball during the Olympics especially when her former college teammates Breanna Stewart and Kia Nurse were suiting up for the United States and Canada respectively. She also had a chance to return to Grand Rapids, the city where she lived until she was five, as the keynote speaker for the Youth Inspires Hometown luncheon.

"I went around, spoke to the kids and a luncheon for scholarship for kids going to college," Tuck said before the Sun's win over defending WNBA champion Minnesota on Friday. "It was really cool being able to do that and do that. They really appreciate it a lot, I received a lot of love and support even though I didn't necessarily grow up there, I moved from there when I was five but all the people that where there were really excited."

Seeing Stewart help the U.S. win a gold medal and Nurse finish as the leading scorer for Canada was special for Tuck.

"When you watch the Olympics and see your country play and it was fun to think 'I know them, I have a relationship with them,'" Tuck said. "I think it is really awesome to see them on TV. For Stewie to go and get a gold medal, that was a dream that she had and it was cool that is happened."

Another thing that recently happened was Tuck's older sister Taylor was named the head girls' basketball coach at Dover High school in Delaware.

"I think that is great," Tuck said. "It is going to be a big challenge for her. I think she will do well, she is 23, she is young and can connect with her players. I think it is a great opportunity for her and I think she really deserves it. I knew she wanted stay around basketball so she is going to be able to coach and go to grad school at the same time so it was good."

Speaking of challenges, Tuck will be heading to South Korea after the end of the WNBA season to play for Shinhan Bank of the WKBL.

"I'm excited," Tuck said. "I don't know a whole lot about South Korea yet, I am trying to learn more but it is going to be a great experience. I have never lived outside the country before so it will be exciting."

Tuck was the third overall pick in the WKBL, one spot ahead of former UConn teammate Kiah Stokes and two spots ahead of Sun teammate Jonquel Jones. Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas was the No. 1 overall selection.

Finally, since Tuck was a part of a talented three-player recruiting class at UConn, I asked her what advice she would give to incoming freshmen Molly Bent, Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin who recently arrived on campus.

"I would tell them trust the process, listen to what the coaches are telling you," Tuck said. "It is going to be hard and there are days when you don't want to do it but it pays off in the end. I got to go up to campus a few times when they are up there so they are great kids, they will fit in with the program really well. They seem like they work really hard and are talented of course. I think freshman year is always a struggle year but I think they will enjoy it a lot."


Friday, August 26, 2016

Former UConn star Moore struggles in first game after the Olympics

Maya Moore returned from her second Olympics with plenty of memories.

However, it is safe to say she will do what she can to wipe away of any recollections of her two games at Mohegan Sun Arena this season.

Moore, one of four members of the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic team on the Minnesota Lynx, looked out of sorts for much of the 84-80 loss to the host Connecticut Sun on Friday night. It was a far cry from her 40-point performance in the 93-89 overtime loss to the Sun on July 7.

Dealing with foul trouble throughout the second half, Moore was 3 of 12 from the floor and had almost as many fouls (five) as points scored (eight including one point shooting a foul shot after a technical foul was called on Sun coach Curt Miller).

Perhaps Moore and fellow U.S. Olympians Lindsay Whalen, Seimoine Augustus and Sylvia Fowles were a little tired in Friday's game but Moore certainly won't tire about discussing her Olympic experience.

Moore led the U.S. team in offensive rebounds, assists and steals. Even though she finished as the team's second-leading scorer, she showed that she was more than just an offensive dynamo.

"I am fortunate to be gifted to have a lot of weapons but I have also worked hard to make sure I
have been as versatile as possible," Moore said. "It was really a no-lose situation to be on a team where I could do everything I know I could do.

"I don't think I've ever done anything different from what I've always done, it is just a case of
people paying attention to it. It is great because it is something I love about the game of
basketball, people doing different things to help the team. it is ironic that people do focus on
my scoring but I can highlight those little things that I am always tying to celebrate in others."

Whalen was certainly impressed by what she saw from her Minnesota Lynx teammate at the Olympics.

"She was the played on our team that did all the dirty work, she got all the hustle plays, she
ignited some runs," Whalen said. "She led the team in assists which is really great. She just had a great tournament. I think Diana (Taurasi) was shooting the ball great, you have (Brittney) Griner inside, in that first group you have a great point guard in Sue Bird who gets you the ball so she kind of saw the way the game is going , she made a lot of the hustle plays. She still scored a lot of points but she really involved her game in a lot of ways and it was really fun see and be a part of it."

Moore now has multiple Olympic, World Championship, NCAA and WNBA titles.

"It was my second Olympics and how precious it is, I was more aware of how precious that moment was," Moore said.

She admitted to getting emotional before the gold medal game realizing it would be the final time this particular team would play together.

 "I was getting kind of sad of 'oh, this is it. this is the last time the 2016 will step on the floor
together,'" Moore said. "I was starting to get a little emotional during the anthem before the game and not actually after (the game) knowing it was the last time we played together as the 2016 team."

One thing Moore didn't think about was the key stretch in the gold medal game when all five former UConn stars were on the court together.

"We weren't even aware who is on the court, at least I am not, but looking back there was a time
where 'wow, it was really fun to connect with Tina' or the pass it to Stewie where I used to get the ball, it is really fun to have those moments."

Moore figures to be a key part of the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. It remained to be seen if the 34-year-old Whalen will be part of the equation in four years time.

"Who knows, four years in a long ways away," Whalen said. "If I were healthy and still good enough to be on the team, I would of course yes. I have had such a good experience with USA Basketball, love the competition but that is a long ways away."

Whalen also weighed in on another player likely to see time in future Olympics - UConn guard Kia Nurse, a star of the Canadian team that reached the quarterfinals.

"I know it helped me from 2012 to now so being 20/21 (years old), what that would do for you, it is huge," Whalen said. "I think she had a great tournament, she is obviously a great player and tough competitor and I think it will only help her in the future."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

UConn great Breanna Stewart: "Nothing compares to the Olympics."

Breanna Stewart was a bit of a USA Basketball veteran even before she played her first game at UConn.

If there was a team to be a part of, Stewart likely not only made the squad but probably was the team's top player.

On a conference call this afternoon set up by the WNBA, Stewart reflected on her first Olympic experience. It was hard to make out everything Stewart said and I was down in Fairfield County in a parking lot ready to conduct an interview for a high school football preview story and had a difficult time getting the moderator to hear by name and affiliation so I did not attempt at ask any questions. Still, here's some stuff you may be interested in.

"I think I learned a lot," Stewart said. "Obviously being able to be on that team where Catch (Tamika Catchings), Dee (Diana Taurasi) and Sue (Bird) were obviously been there a while, also on a team with 11 other great players and continuing to put the emphasis on putting your country before everything else,' Stewart said. "We weren't caught up in anything else besides winning, representing our country and just knowing how big that was on the Olympic level.

"I've (competed) on younger levels  but nothing compares to the Olympics.

"They exceeded my expectations. Having grown up being a part of USA Basketball at a young age, watching the actual Olympics when I was younger than that and to be able to be a part of it, you really can't expect that."

The Olympic break is about to come to an end and Stewart addressed that as well.

"We have 10 games and right now we have a chance to be in the playoffs and it just depends on what we do in the 10 games we still have level," Stewart said.

"Obviously I thought about the WNBA when I was with USA Basketball but at the same time, you turn a switch on and you turn it off. When the Olympic break started, I turned on the USA Basketball switch and now that you've won gold, now you put your focus back with the (Seattle) Storm. I think to be able to make the playoffs will be huge for the franchise and it is definitely a reachable goal
I was only like four or five months out from UConn but it was a great feeling."

Stewart turned a question about how previous U.S. national team training camps helped her make the transition to the WNBA into an opportunity to give UConn coach Geno Auriemma his due.

"Playing at UConn makes the transition a lot better than probably being at other schools just because the standards of Coach and everything else. "

Of course Stewart was asked about having the best selling jersey among WNBA players.

"I saw it this morning on Twitter," Stewart said. "I think it is a good deal, it just kind of shows the amount of support that I have gotten so far in the WNBA and hopefully it will continue and hopefully it is helping the league as well.

"I realize I have gotten to the point where people are wearing my jersey to games, to practice to their every day (lives), it is humbling and it is kind of cool."
I listened into Maya Moore time on the call as well but since she will be in Connecticut tomorrow when her Minnesota Lynx play the Connecticut Sun, I figured I would focus on what she had to say about the Olympics tomorrow.

Former UConn star Breanna Stewart has top selling WNBA jersey

Former UConn star Breanna Stewart is not only well on her way to joining fellow former Huskies Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles and Maya Moore as WNBA Rookie of the Year. She is also making an impact off the court as the WNBA announced that since the start of the 2016 season, Stewart has the best selling jersey in the league.

Top 10 Most Popular WNBA Jerseys:                              
1.      Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
2.      Skylar Diggins, Dallas Wings
3.      Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky
4.      Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
5.      Shoni Schimmel, New York Liberty
6.      Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
7.      Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
8.      Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
9.      Sue Bird, Seattle Storm
10.  Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

Top 5 Most Popular Team Merchandise:
1.      Seattle Storm
2.      Dallas Wings
3.      Minnesota Lynx
4.      Chicago Sky
5.      Los Angeles Sparks

Saturday, August 20, 2016

UConn. quintet win Olympic gold

If this was indeed the international swan song for former UConn teammates Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, they certainly are leaving with style.

Bird and Taurasi, who first played together during the 2000-01 college season followed up their on-court partnership at UConn by playing together in Russia and of course a remarkable run with the U.S. national team.

Taurasi finished as the leading scorer for the U.S. team and Bird set an Olympic record for assist/turnover ratio as the U.S. won their sixth straight Olympic gold medal with a 101-72 win over Spain.

Taurasi had 17 points as she averaged 15.6 points in the eight games aided by her 58 percent shooting from 3-point range as she joined Bird and Tamika Catchings as four-time Olympic gold medalists.

"It’s huge," Taurasi said. "It says a lot about the people the run USA Basketball.  It says a lot about the youth in our country that when you put this jersey on, there’s a level and it’s not necessarily just basketball, it’s a way to be a great teammate.  We showed that in this tournament "

Former Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen had 13 points and five rebounds. Former UConn star Maya Moore had 12 of her 14 points in the first half and also had five rebounds and six assists.

Bird, who missed the semifinal win over France with a knee injury, had one assist and one turnover giving her 31 assists versus four turnovers in the tournament which is easily the best mark in Olympic women's basketball history. Bahar Caglar of Turkey had 11 assists and 2 turnovers in the 2012 Olympics while in 1996 Hyun Sun Han of Korea had 16 assists and 3 turnovers.

"I’m just really happy," Bird said. "We just did something that’s pretty incredible. When you get together as a team and you know you only have a month to do something, it’s remarkable in so many ways that we were able to put this together and do it in a fashion that leaves no question marks. This put us on the map as arguable one of the best teams, and we had fun doing it.

"I don’t think I’ve ever been around a group that’s this talented and also played this hard. Again, I’m just super happy. I’m proud of my teammates. I’m proud I’m part of this group. I’m happy for Coach Auriemma and the rest of the staff, and it’s just a really fun day today."

In the second quarter alone, UConn grads Taurasi, Bird, Moore, Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart combined for 26 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a blocked shot as the U.S. outscored Spain 28-15 to take a commanding 49-32 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Charles finished with eight points, seven rebounds and five assists while Stewart finished with 11 points.

Charles and Moore join Bird and Taurasi as the only players to win multiple NCAA, World Championship and Olympic titles while Stewart becomes the ninth former Husky to win a gold medal in women's basketball.

"This is in a league of its own," said Stewart, who averaged 8.1 points per game while shooting 73.3 percent from the field. "This is a different kind of toughness to be able to win gold medal just because you come together with 11 other great players, best players in the world, and we had two weeks to prepare really. Then we got here and played well and acted like we been playing with each together for the entire year."

Moore joined Taurasi as the only double-digit scorer for the U.S. averaging 12 points per game, she also had a team-high 16 steals and was tied for the team lead with 45 rebounds. It should be noted that six U.S. players had at least 20 assists and four of them graduated from UConn as Moore had a team high 34 assists, Taurasi had 26 and Charles finished with 25.

It had to be extra special for Auriemma. He made it clear after returning home from the 2012 Olympics that he was done with being in the pressure cooker of coaching the U.S. national team. USA Basketball Women's National Team Director Carol Callan wouldn't take no for an answer and Auriemma decided that being able to coach his former players and especially Bird and Taurasi was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

It wasn't an easy ride. He had to answer questions daily about whether the dominance of the U.S. team was good for the game (like he never heard that question before). When two-time Olympian Candace Parker was left off the team, he faced accusations of picking players because they went to UConn. Those petty claims were on social media even today. None of that seemed to matter after the gold medal game as Auriemma became the first coach to win multiple Olympic gold medals in women's basketball even if he doesn't get a medal.

"Obviously, it was an incredible tournament for us," Auriemma said after the game. "From the very first game that we played to today, with very few exceptions I thought we played basketball at a really high level. I can’t say enough about our players. How quickly they’ve come together, how much they’ve been able to accomplish in less than a month that we’ve been together. It wasn’t as easy as sometimes it looked. These last two games especially with France and today against Spain. These are very good teams that we’re playing, and you could see that it wasn’t just a cake walk, that it was a struggle. Then finally, because of our depth and because of the experience on our team, we were able to separate ourselves. But the way we played, we respected our opponents and we respected the game itself, we earned a lot of respect from a lot of people around the world, and I’m really proud of that."

Catchings has announced that this was her Olympic swan song and we'll have to see if Bird and Taurasi opt to try to become the first five-time Olympic gold medalists in women's basketball in four years time. Also, will UConn coach Geno Auriemma be the head coach for the U.S. in 2020. If I had to guess I would say no on all accounts.

Former Connecticut Sun draft pick Alba Torrens led Spain with 18 points.

Serbia won the bronze medal with a 70-63 win over France. Former Connecticut Sun forward Danielle Page had 10 points as she was one of five players from Serbia in double figures.

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5 former UConn stars go for gold today

The United States goes after its sixth straight gold medal and here are some UConn related things to look for.

If the U.S. beats Spain in the 2:30 p.m. gold-medal game, Breanna Stewart would become ninth UConn product to win a gold medal (and 10th medalist overall as Svetlana Abrosimova won a bronze with Russia in 2008).

Tina Charles and Maya Moore would join Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi as the only players to win multiple NCAA, World Championship and Olympic titles.

The game will air live on NBC.

Here's the breakdown. The number of World Championship titles in parenthesis since the U.S. did not win the title in 2006

              WC                        OLY        NCAABird       02-06-10-14 (3)   04-08-12   00-02
Cash      10 (1)                   04-12        00-02
Charles  10-14 (2)              12             09-10
Jones     10 (1)                   12              00-02
Lobo                                  96                    95
Moore   10-14 (2)              12              09-10
Stewart  14 (1)                                   13-14-15-16
Taurasi  06-10-14 (2)      04-08-12      02-03-04
Wolters  94-98 (1)              00                   95

Thursday, August 18, 2016

U.S. to play for gold medal on Saturday

Former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore had 18 and 15 points each as the U.S. overcame a spirited challenge from France to advance to the Olympic gold medal game with a 86-67 victory.

Sylvia Fowles had 12 points and nine rebounds while Seimone Augustus and Brittney Griner finished with 10 points as the U.S. goes for its sixth consecutive gold medal when it plays Spain on Saturday.

Augustus got the start in place of injured former UConn star Sue Bird. who hopes to be able to play in the gold medal game.

Former Connecticut Sun draft pick Alba Torrens had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists as Spain defeated Serbia 68-54 in the first semifinal.

8 UConn players earn AAC academic honors

Eight members of UConn's undefeated national championship team including All-Americans Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were named to the American Athletic Conference All-Academic team.

Fellow senior Briana Pulido joined Natalie Butler, Kia Nurse, Tierney Lawlor and Courtney Ekmark were also honored by the conference.

Here's a link to the complete list

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Former UConn star Sue Bird "day to day" after MRI on injured knee

Former UConn star Sue Bird suffered a knee capsule sprain in the United States' win over Japan last night according to a release sent out by USA Basketball.

Bird is considered to be day to day.

"Obviously I felt a huge relief," said Bird in the release. "The hardest part is waiting and not knowing. So, to finally get the thumbs-up from the doc that everything was okay was incredibly relieving and exciting, and obviously I’m very happy."

The U.S. plays France in the semifinals tomorrow and with a win would meet either Serbia or Spain in Saturday's gold-medal game. It's too early to tell if Bird will be able to see action during the rest of the tournament.

Bird has started each of the first six games for the U.S. She is tied for third in the Olympics with an average of 5 assists per game. She has 30 assists and three turnovers and her assist/turnover ratio which is twice as good as any other player in the tournament.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Olympic run comes to an end for UConn's Nurse

Kia Nurse will be returning to UConn without an Olympic medal.

Nurse had 11 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shots in the 68-63 loss to France.

Nurse had a tough shooting night for Canada but her three-point play with 4:25 left to play pulled Canada within two points. However, Canada couldn't come all the way back.

Nurse missed a couple of shots in the final two minutes including one with 1:14 left which would have given the lead back to Canada.

Nurse finished 3 for 17 from the field as Canada finished 3-3 while France advances to play the U.S. in the semifinals. Many of Nurse's misses in the game and in the tournament came on aggressive drives to the basket when she attempted to draw fouls against bigger defenders.

She finished with the sixth most points (66) for a Canadian women's player in the Olympics but if you take away her 7 for 11 shooting in the 25-point win over Serbia, Nurse was only 9 for 53 from the field in the Olympics. Nurse finished second on the team with 14 assists.

The game's outcome swung in France's favor in the second quarter. Canada jumped out to a 29-16 lead and appeared ready to run away with the victory but France answered right back with a 12-0 run aided by five Canada turnovers in a 3-minute span to pull within 29-28 setting the stage for a back and forth affair the rest of the way.

"We lacked a little bit of experience at the end," Canadian head coach Lisa Thomaidis said in a release. "We forced up some tough shots we didn't need to, and we had a hard time learning our lessons throughout the tournament."

It will be interesting to see what the Canadian national team looks like in four years. Team captain Kim Gaucher, who had 15 points in Tuesday's loss, is currently 32 while Shona Thorburn is 34.

Current Iowa State star Bridget Carleton was a star in the 2015 FIBA U-19 World Championships while Alyssa Jerome averaged 15.8 points and 9.4 rebounds in leading Canada to the silver medal at the FIBA Americas U18 championships and was the team's No. 2 scorer in the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championships. Laeticia Amihere averaged 12.5 points and 13 rebounds in the U-17 event. Canada does have players standing in the 6-foot-3/6-foot-4 range in its program like former first round WNBA picks Kayla Alexander and Adut Bulgak as well as 6-6 Ruth Hamblin. Developing more of a low-post presence on offense could be the next step if Canada want to compete for medals at the World Championships and Olympics moving forward. Too often it looked like when things got tough, Canada would rely on young players like Nurse and Nirra Fields driving to the basket. Once teams caught onto that and took that away, it was tough for Canada to sustain much on offense.

Here is the breakdown of Canada's top Olympic women's basketball scorers
Player                 Year G Points
Bev Smith                  1984 6 85
Dianne Norman          1996 7 84
Kim Smith                 2012 6 83
Bev Smith                  1996 7 74
Stacey Dales               2000 6 71
Kia Nurse                    2016 6 66
Carol Turney               1976 5 65
Beverly Bland             1976 5 64
Alison Lang                 1984 6 63
Shona Thorburn           2012 6 63
Tammy Sutton-Brown 2000 6 62
Tamara Tatham           2016 59
Dianne Norman           2000 55

Impressive second half powers U.S. in Olympic semifinals

Former UConn stars Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi had 19 points each as the United States rolled to an 110-64 win over Japan in the Olympic quarterfinals.

The U.S. were only up two on a young, talented Japan team with 1:29 left in the first half. Seimone Augustus had four points in the final 34 seconds of the second quarter to cap an 8-0 run to end the first half.

The U.S. struggled at times defensively in the first half against the up-tempo style utilized by Japan as Japan's 3-point shooting kept it a close game - for a while.

Angel McCoughtry had 13 points, Elena Delle Donne had 11 points while Augustus ended up with 10 points as did Sylvia Fowles and Lindsay Whalen.

"I think it’s just a matter of us wearing teams down," Moore said. "We play at a high level. We try to play at a high level for 40 minutes. It’s not going to happen perfectly. We just tried to do our best to stay with our game plan and be aggressive, and our defense really kick started our offense in the second half where we were able to get a lot of stops in a row and stifling runs that we were trying to make."

Former UConn star Tina Charles had a team-high five assists. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird, one of five former Huskies on the team, appeared to jam her knee in the second quarter and did not play in the second half. Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press reported that Bird heard a pop in her right knee and will be reevaluated tomorrow to determine her availability for Thursday's semifinals. Bird has 30 assists and 3 turnovers while running the show for the U.S. team in the tournament. Bird has not made any public statements about her basketball future and if the injury is serious enough to sideline her for the rest of the Olympics and the remainder of the WNBA season (the fact that she was fighting back tears when the camera panned to her on the bench did not bode well), it would be a shame if that was the last basketball she were to play if she decides to join Olympic teammate Tamika Catchings and former UConn teammate Swin Cash in retiring at the end of the WNBA season.

The U.S. will meet France, a 68-63 winner over Canada, in Thursday's semifinal. Serbia upset previously undefeated Australia in the first quarterfinal while a furious finish by Spain highlighted by Anna Cruz's buzzer-beating shot lifted Spain past Turkey to set up a semifinal against Serbia.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Former UConn star Maya Moore leads U.S. past China

UConn's all-time leading scorer Maya Moore showed that she can much more than just points on the scoreboard as the United States wrapped up pool play in the Olympics with a dominating 105-62 victory over China.

Moore, who plays professionally in China during the winter. had eight rebounds, eight assists, four steals and a blocked shot to go with her nine points.

Tina Charles, who teamed with Moore to win two national titles at UConn, had 18 points and three rebounds. The top three low post players for the U.S. dominated as Brittney Griner had 18 points and 13 rebounds while Sylvia Fowles chipped in with 13 points.

UConn legends Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird had six and five assists as the U.S. broke its own team single-game record with 40 assists.

The U.S. played without reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, who was hit in her eye during pregame warmups.

The U.S. will play Japan in the quarterfinals.  Game is slated to start at 5:45 p.m.

Spain finished second in Group B with a 73-60 win over Canada.

UConn's Kia Nurse finished with eight points, one rebound and two assists but she didn't score her first basket until 3:10 remained as the loss means Canada will meet France in the quarterfinals at 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday with a potential rematch with the U.S. looming in the semifinals. Former UCLA star Nirra Fields led Canada with 13 points while former Connecticut Sun draft pick Alba Torrens had 20 points to lead Spain which meets Turkey in the quarterfinals.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

UConn legends Moore, Taurasi lead U.S. past Canada

Former UConn stars Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi had 12 points each as the United States defeated Canada 81-51 to improve to 4-0 in pool play at the Olympics.

Moore also had eight rebounds, four assists and two steals, Tina Charles had 10 points and five rebounds, Sue Bird had nine assists while Breanna Stewart added five points for the U.S.

However, the real story was the defense played by the U.S. especially in the second quarter as Canada missed its first 10 shots in the quarter with nine turnovers before a Nirra Fields layup with 39 seconds left in the period.

"I think what’s most impressive is that you have a group of women who, every single one of us is the best, the second best, the third best player on their team in the WNBA," Bird said. "Every single one of us have been all-stars, some of us have been MVPs, the best players on their teams in the world, over here and over there, and yet we were probably playing harder than any team in the tournament right now. I think that says a lot about us as individuals and us as a group. Because that’s what that was, that was effort. "

UConn's Kia Nurse had a tough shooting game finishing 1 of 9 as she finished with three points for Canada.

"She’s going to do what she does," UConn and U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma said. "For such a young player, what an experience. You haven’t even started your junior year in college, and you’re playing in the Olympics against players she probably watched growing up. I think she’s done an amazing job. She’s fun to coach. There were a bunch of times this year when she’d do something goofy – throw the ball away, commit a dumb foul or do something and I (would joke to her), 'I can’t wait until we play you guys in the Olympics.' And she’ll just roll her eyes. She’s one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever been around. That kid is tough, physically tough. She’s just an unbelievable kid."

Canada is still in position to grab second place in Group B with a win over Spain on Sunday while the U.S. wraps up pool play on Sunday against China.

"They keep this very well in perspective,” Canadian head coach Lisa Thomaidis said in a release. "They know what this is all about and our eyes are firmly focused on a very tough Spanish team. That's a game that has some meaningfulness to it for us and we'll be ready for them."

Group A wraps up play on Saturday. It looks like Australia will emerge as the top seed out of the group. Things will get interesting if France were to lose to Japan while Turkey beats Brazil. That would not only leave three teams at 3-2 but each would have gone 1-1 against the other two teams. Somebody smarter than me would have to figure out the tiebreakers in that situation.

Chris Sienko, the only general manager in Connecticut Sun history, announced that he would be leaving the organization at the September.

“This has been an amazing journey over the past fourteen years, and it is certainly going to be very difficult to leave the organization I helped to build,” Sienko said in a release. “But I believe the time is right to explore opportunities with a singular focus and I am looking forward to the next challenge. I know the Sun is well-positioned for the future, with a great nucleus of young talent and an outstanding coaching staff. It will be fun to be a fan, and I look forward to cheering them on in the future.”

Sienko helped the Sun reach a pair of WNBA finals and aided the Mohegan Sun Arena's preparation in hosting four WNBA All-Star games, three WNBA Drafts and three American Athletic Conference women's basketball tournaments. He was also on the committee which selected the 2016 U.S. Olympic women's basketball team.

One of the most noteworthy moves under Sienko's watch was the firing of successful head coach Mike Thibault in 2012 after a 25-9 season which was Thibault's eighth winning season in 10 years at the helm of the Sun. The team missed the playoffs in each of Anne Donovan's three seasons as the head coach and are currently a game out of the playoffs in Curt Miller's rookie season.

Time announced for UConn's season opener

Florida State announced that the No. 14 game against four-time defending national champion UConn will be played at 6 p.m. and air on ESPN2.

UConn will be taking a 75-game winning streak into its regular-season opener which trails only UConn's NCAA record 90-win streak.

A national television audience will get to see UConn's first game (not counting a couple of exhibitions) without graduated All-Americans Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck.

Florida State, coming off a 25-8 season, returns seven of its top nine players including leading scorer Shakayla Thomas and star point guard Leticia Romero, currently a key member of Spain's Olympic team so the Seminoles figure to be ranked in the top 15 if not in the top 10 in the preseason polls.

NOVEMBER Mon 14: at No. 17 Florida State, 6 p.m. (ESPN2) 
 Thu 17:  vs. No. 4 BAYLOR
 Sun 20: at LSU
 Tue 22: vs. DAYTON
 Tue 29: vs. CHATTANOOGA
DECEMBER Thu 1: vs. No. 20 DEPAUL
 Sun 4: vs. No. 7 Texas (at Mohegan Sun Arena), 4 p.m.
 Wed 7: at No. 2 Notre Dame
 Sun 11: at Kansas State, 2 p.m.
 Mon 19: vs. No. 9 OHIO STATE
 Wed 21: at Nebraska
 Thu 29: at No. 5 Maryland
 Final Associated Press poll is ranking listed

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Undefeated Canada, U.S. to meet in Olympics

It wasn't always pretty but Canada defeated winless Senegal 68-58 led by UConn guard Kia Nurse to set up a showdown of undefeated teams on Friday in pool play.

Nurse had a tough shooting game but a key steal and layup by Nurse in the final two minutes finally put away the pesky Senegal team.

Nurse had 14 points as Canada improved to 3-0. The win means that Canada will finish in the top three in Group B with a two-game lead on China as well as owning the head to head tiebreaker. That is important because Australia seems headed to the Group A title so the No. 4 team in Group B would have to face Australia in the quarterfinals.

"She’s something else, isn’t she?" UConn and U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. "She’s finally healthy. She struggled most of the season and she got it taken care of at the end. She’s playing with a lot of confidence because they had great success last summer in the Pan Am Games, in FIBA Americas they had a lot of success."

Canada and the U.S. will meet on Friday at 2:30 p.m. Canada wraps up pool play against Spain on Sunday at 4:45 p.m. in a game which could decide who finishes second in Group B.

The U.S. hit triple digits again as former UConn star Diana Taurasi had 25 points including a U.S. record six 3-pointers in the 110-84 win over Serbia. Fellow former Huskies Breanna Stewart and Tina Charles contributed with 17 points and 15 points and combined for 13 rebounds. Angel McCoughtry had 13 points and former UConn star Maya Moore chipped in with 10 for the U.S.

With every team having played three games, Taurasi is tied for fourth in scoring with an average of 17.7 points per game as she is shooting 58.3 percent from 3-point range. Nurse is tied for 13th in scoring with an average of 14.7 PPG. Stewart checks in at No. 17 with 13.1 points per game while shooting 75 percent from the field and Tina Charles is tied for 29th at 11.0 PPG.

Nurse tied a Canadian women's Olympic record with 39 points in back to back games. Current Canadian assistant coach Bev Smith scored 39 points against Yugoslavia and the United States during the 1984 Olympics.

39 Kia Nurse Serbia (25), Senegal (14) 201639 Bev Smith Yugoslavia (24), United States (15) 1984
38 Carol Turney United States (24), Czechoslovakia (14) 1976
37 Dianne Norman Korea (17), Congo (20) 1996
37 Carol Turney Japan (13), United States (24) 1976
36 Bev Smith Australia (12), Yugoslavia (24) 1984
35 Shona Thorburn Great Britain (18), France (17) 2012
32 Sylvia Sweeney Japan (26), United States (6) 1976
31 Kim Smith Russia (20), Great Britain 2012
31 Kim Smith Brazil (14), Australia (17) 2012
30 Kim Smith Australia (17), United States 13 2012
30 Dianne Norman Japan (13), Korea (17) 1976

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Taking a somber trip down memory lane

I've used this forum in the past to reflect on the lives of some special people whether it was coaching legends Kay Yow or Pat Summitt or former colleagues, mentors and close friends Dave Solomon and Paul Marslano.

Today it is a little different as I am recalling the life of a person who has no ties to women's basketball and (to my knowledge) has never sat on press row at a UConn women's basketball game. However, there are times when somebody's life deserves more mention than a few paragraphs in an obituary and this is one of those times so hopefully you will indulge me with this trip down memory lane even if this is not the ideal forum for such a piece.

If you asked me to place a number on how many people I have interviewed since arriving in Connecticut 31 years ago, I don't think I could even come close to an accurate guess. I can, however, recall the first.

As a matter of fact, she was on my mind as I made the familiar drive through I-95 in Milford en route to DeLuca Field in Stratford on Sunday. I actually left much earlier than necessary so I could catch up with UConn softball incoming freshman Katie Koshes who earned all-tournament honors at the eighth annual Women's Major Softball National Tournament. For those wondering, the story on Koshes is slated to run tomorrow. I've gone to Stratford to cover at least one Brakettes game every year since 1991 but never did I experience the flood of emotions that I did on Sunday. The closest experience to that was probably when I was assigned to cover the Chalk Talk event with the football coaches from New Haven, SCSU and Yale shortly after Dave Solonon's death. I remember plenty of eyes being on me when I teared up during a moment of silence in Dave's honor. It was a much different deal this time. Pretty much everybody in the room at the 2011 Chalk Talk event knew who Dave was but I'm not sure how many knew or had the pleasure to cross paths with Megan so I kept my thoughts to myself except for those on my facebook page.

Sadly, my focus wasn't on the former Amity High All-State pitcher, or even tournament MVP Megan Good of the Brakettes on that day and I hope that wasn't too evident in the quality of the stories I wrote. Perhaps it was because I drove through the city where my dear friend lived for the last 20 years or covered an event in the town where she worked for about 20 years before being diagnosed with cancer. Maybe it was because I remember when she was on the other end of the phone during her time at WICC radio taking information for results of previous Brakettes national tournaments but I had flashbacks of that interview with Megan O'Connell Albright back in the fall of 1985 more than once on Sunday as well as some of our other meetings. Then I read an online tribute to her saying she is somebody that once you meet that you never forget. Truer words have never been written.

I was taking my first journalism class as a college student and my professor at Southern Connecticut State instructed us to interview somebody about how they were impacted by Hurricane Gloria. Still new to the area after arriving from a two-year stay in Miami, I did what most guys my age would do and asked the most beautiful girl in my classes that semester to sit down with me for an interview. Megan, who took a history of philosophy class with me, graciously obliged and spoke about helping move some boats from the water to help a friend. We would share a table in either the library or student center probably more than a 100 times by the time our college days came to an end. Sadly, I would have one more face to face conversation with her after my college graduation. I have regrets for some of my actions but never as much as I stumbled upon her obituary late last week. The reality that I could never clear the air with her bothered me because she deserved better. What really tugged at my heart strings is that her three children, husband, family members and friends must be reeling so much from her loss. I was also struck by the fact that her youngest child and only daughter is 13, the same age my oldest sister was at that time we lost our parents. I remember one time telling Meg that I wouldn't wish the fate of growing up without your mother and/or father on anybody not knowing that 30 years later it is something her family would have to contend with.

This is the second time this year that a 51-year-old mother with three children who I was close to has passed away. In March it was the wife of my former roommate who passed away after a valiant battle with multiple sclerosis. Now tragedy has struck again with the loss of my friend Megan as a result of breast cancer.

I thought of Megan earlier this year when I was assigned to do a story on SCSU track star Shatajah Wattely. I walked out of the parking garage (which wasn't there when I was a student at Southern) and passed the street that I used to take when I walked her to her car. When I would return to speak to SCSU journalism students and would park in another part of campus where I walked with her to where her car was parked on other occasions, I would remember some of those conversations. When I would see stories or promos for WICC's Greatest Bluefish Contest on Earth, I would also think of her because shortly after returning to the Register after 18 months away back in the early 1990s, my boss asked me to drive to Bridgeport to do a story on the results of that year's event. I got to Captain's Cove and walked towards the tournament headquarters and was about five feet from a familiar face when she turned around and said "oh my God." Yes, I guess she remembered me. I interviewed her for the second and final time that day. She suggested I call her in about a week to verify the results which I did. Little did I know that 60 or 90 second call would be the last time I spoke to her.

I actually included her in a blog post that unfortunately is gone. I think it was 2007 and I wrote about my high school (Alvirne in Hudson. N.H.) checking out a UConn practice. I remember writing about when I was in college and Meg would see somebody that she went to high school with and I joked with her that "funny, I never seem to run into one of my old high school friends." She would just shoot me this look and without uttering a word, would get her point across. I cleaned out many of my early blog posts due to issues with the blog page so that is one of the ones that is no longer available to view.

Perhaps my favorite story came when I was a sophomore and I rode my bike to school. I was coming down with a major cold and she suggested I take Nyquil. I never took that medicine before and didn't pick up on the meaning of the "Ny" in Nyquil so I took a swig of it around noon. When it came time to go home in the late afternoon I was ready to pass out and not sure how I didn't fall off my bike. Next time we had lunch together I told her the story and she laughed so loud that every single person in the student center turned around to look at us.

As a former reporter and then a promotions director at a prominent radio station, she is prominent enough to warrant a look back at her life and I suggested to our editor that they considering doing just that. However, there was so much more to her life than that decade or so in the journalism business. She became a realtor right around the time she was going to start a family so she could be there for her children. I saw her name listed among Connecticut's Five Star Real Estate Agents in 2014 by Connecticut Magazine. It didn't surprise me because when she was in college she was working three jobs and was a part-time college student 30 minutes away from home leading me to ask her one time 'Meg, when exactly do you sleep.' She looked at me and deadpanned "sleep, what is that?' Oh, did a mention that both of her sons were recognized with a national award for their volunteer work in a span of three years getting honored in ceremonies in Washington, D.C.? Or she would have her picture taken by a Hartford Courant photographer helping an injured man en route to witness Pope Francis' mass in Philadelphia last year. I saw a social media post saying that Meg gave advice to a friend's son on how to deal with cancer treatment even as she was fighting for her life. I think now you understand why I feel compelled to share her story.

I am sure when I am at the Jimmy V Classic on Dec. 4 at Mohegan Sun Arena that I will once again have flashbacks to my remarkable friend from college. I won't be alone that day as so many people in attendance will reflect on those who have lost special people in their lives to cancer. I still think of Dave Solomon when I pass the part of the highway where he lost his life just over five years ago and I'm sure something will trigger the memories of my many meetings with Megan during my college days will remain fresh in my mind as well.

Now it's back to what I consider my normal life with an Ivy League football teleconference to jump on in a few minutes. Tomorrow will be my first UConn football practice of the summer with a few Olympic basketball updates sure to be posted on this blog.

Monday, August 08, 2016

UConn's Kia Nurse comes up big as Canada rallies for crucial Olympic victory

When Kia Nurse made the decision to undergo sports hernia surgery in May, there was no guarantee she would be a major factor in Canada's quest for an Olympic medal.

In the three exhibition games in the USA Basketball Showcase and in the Olympic opener against China, Nurse was not the same aggressive, confident player for Canada that she was last summer while leading her country to the Pan Am and FIBA Americas titles.

That all changed with Canada in danger of losing a pivotal pool play game to Serbia on Monday.
Nurse was 7 for 11 from the field including 3 of 4 from 3-point range as she finished with a game-high 25 points to go with five assists and two steals.

“It was just a complete team effort,” Nurse said in a release. “After the first half we said, 'Let's get it done on the defensive end' and that's what we did. We came down with some boards, got out in transition. We made them run and executed extremely well in the second half.”
Serbia took a 52-34 lead when Sasa Cado hit a 3-pointer with 5:27 left in the third quarter. Nurse had seven points and an assist as Canada cut the lead to 12 heading into the fourth quarter.

Nurse was 6 for 6 from the line in the first 1:38 of the fourth quarter to pull Canada within six. Nirra Fields tied the game at 59 on a 3-pointer with 4:46 left to play. Nurse drove into the lane and kicked a pass out to Kim Gaucher for a go-ahead 3-pointer to give Canada a 63-61 lead with 2:45 left. Serbia regained the lead on a pair of free throws by Ana Dabovic to make it a 67-65 with 1:11 remaining.

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe converted a three-point play with 48 seconds left to put Canada ahead 68-67. After a turnover by Serbia gave the ball back to Canada with 31 seconds to play, the decision was made not to foul by Serbia. Canada put the ball in Nurse's hands as she assisted on Miah-Marie Langlois' 3-pointer with 8 seconds remaining.

There's still plenty of basketball yet to be played but a loss to Serbia could very well of left Canada slotted in as the No. 4 team out of Group B which would likely have resulted in a quarterfinal matchup against a powerful Australia team. Now, even if Canada were to lose to the United States and Spain, it should finish in the top three in Group B which would mean a quarterfinal opponent that Canada would have a much better chance to beat than if Australia was the foe in the quarters.

I went back and did some checking and Nurse came one point shy of the Olympic single-game record by a Canadian women's player as Sylvia Sweeney scored 26 points against Japan in 1976.

Here's the list of 20-point games by Canadian women's players
26 Sylvia Sweeney vs. Japan 1976
25 Kia Nurse vs. Serbia 201624 Carol Turney vs. U.S. 1976
24 Bev Smith vs. Yugoslavia 1984
21 Alison Lang vs. Korea 1984
21 Bev Smith vs. Congo 1996
20 Dianne Norman vs. Congo 1996
20 Kim Smith vs. Russia 2012


U.S. rolls past Spain to improve to 2-0 in the Olympics

Former UConn stars Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi combined for 16 assists as the United States improved to 2-0 in pool play in the Olympics after a 103-63 win over third-ranked Spain.

Taurasi finished with 13 points, two points and two assists, Bird had nine points, five rebounds and five assists, Moore had eight points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals while Charles added eight points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Former UConn star Breanna Stewart had nine points and four rebounds.

Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles had 12 points each while Brittney Griner and Angel McCoughtry had 10 points. Fowles and Griner were a combined 10 for 12 from the field as the U.S. took advantage of the absence of injured Spain star Syncho Lyttle to score inside early and often.

"We talked about it yesterday," UConn and U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said in a release. "Each game we play is going to get progressively harder. We have to keep getting better and it took us a little bit. Spain’s a really good team, but I think when you look our depth and all the people that we have that can keep the pressure going, after a while it starts to take its toll on the other team.  You could see as we got into the middle of the third quarter and the fourth quarter, it really starts to have an effect. I was really happy with, it’s the third day that we practice or play, so it’s never easy. So I thought it was good, I thought we did a great job."

Sunday, August 07, 2016

UConn's Taurasi, Stewart star as U.S. rolls to win in Olympic opener

Former UConn stars Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi had 15 points each to lead seven players in double figures as the United States opened play in the Olympics with a dominating 121-56 win over Senegal.

Taurasi hit five 3-pointers (tying her own single-game Olympic record) while Stewart added three rebounds for the U.S. which set a single-game mark for points in a game.

Former Huskies Tina Charles (10 points) Maya Moore (9 points) and Sue Bird (five points, eight assists) also contributed to the blowout victory.

Sylvia Fowles also had 15 points, Brittney Griner had 14 while Elena Delle Donne and Angel McCoughtry added 11 points each while Fowles and Griner had seven rebounds each.

"You wait so long to play, and you’re not quite sure what you’re going (to) get," UConn and U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said in a release. "The kids are really, really anxious, really excited to play. So, that first group really got us going. We just played so quickly, and the ball moved so quickly for us. And when Diana starts the game off like that, that just makes us really, really tough to play against. "

Saturday, August 06, 2016

UConn's Nurse helps Canada win Olympic opener

The first Olympic experience for UConn guard Kia Nurse was a victorious one.

Nurse came off the bench to contribute five points (all from the foul line), two rebounds, four assists and a steal as Canada defeated China 90-68 in its Olympic opener on Saturday.

Nurse, still working her way back after undergoing sports hernia surgery after returning from the Final Four, was 0 for 6 from the field although she did connect on a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter that was ruled to come after the shot clock expired.

The victory for Canada, ranked ninth in the FIBA rankings, against No. 8 China was a key one since Canada still has to play the top-ranked United States and No. 3 Spain in Group B. Next up for Canada is an underrated Serbia team on Monday while the U.S. team, featuring five former UConn players, will play Senegal on Sunday at 11 a.m. in its Olympic opener.

A win over Serbia would put Canada in good shape to finish in the top three in Group B while would likely mean avoiding Australia in the quarterfinals.

Tamara Tatham had 20 points to lead four Canadian players in double figures.

"I thought it was a great way to start the tournament,” Canadian head coach Lisa Thomaidis said in a release. "We had contributions from absolutely everyone. 41 of our 90 points came from our bench and I think that just speaks to our depth of talent and ability to put different people in and see them contribute."


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

U.S. team meets with the media

The Olympics are underway and the U.S. women's basketball team, coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma and featuring five of his former players met with the media today in Rio.

I'm not there to cover the Olympics unfortunately but thanks to the folks at USA Basketball, I can pass along what Auriemma, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi had to say.

Geno Auriemma (Connecticut)
Opening statement:

Obviously, we are excited to be here, as every other team is, I’m sure. This is what they train for. This is what they prepare for. Whether they are playing overseas, or whether they are playing in the WNBA, this is always something that is in the back of their mind – that they want to be ready for the Olympic Games. Whether it is their first time, or their fourth time. If the look of them has been any indication these last couple of weeks, this team is really, really ready. They’re obviously conscious of how hard it’s going to be. They’re really well aware of how good all the other countries are, and they know not to take anything for granted. But, I’ve been around this national team since 2009, and this is probably the most prepared team, the most anxious team to get started that I’ve been around. This weekend can’t come fast enough.

How are you handling the pressure to win?
I’m sure every federation feels it. Every group feels the pressure to win when you are representing your country. I almost put myself in the position of some of these soccer coaches when they play in the World Cup, where you can play great, you dominate a game, you can out-shoot an opponent 30 to two, and one of those goes in and you lose one – nothing, and you are just devastated. And the whole country feels the pain. I don’t know that it is that crazy in the United States, but since this is basketball, it takes on that kind of significance. What I hope happens is that us, if we were fortunate enough to win a gold medal, that that’s a big deal. Instead of, you know what the big deal is, if we lose. Which is unfortunate, because this team, these players, these women have accomplished so much. They’ve done so much. And maybe because they’ve won so much, they probably don’t get the respect they truly deserve for how dominant they have been.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Opening statement:

Just like Tamika said, I think we are all really excited. This group has got a really good mix of first-timers, second, third and fourth. It’s great, because there is experience up here, and there is wide-eyed down there, and everything in between, and the best part is that we did have a great week of training, a week-and-a-half of training. And with that, we are excited to be here, we are ready to be here, and in some ways, it was such a busy week-and-a-half, it’s almost relaxing to be here and know that all we have to do is focus on basketball now. Again, we are really excited, and we are looking forward to the game on Saturday.

What are some things that are working better than in 2012?
I don’t think it’s about better or worse, it’s more about experience. A lot of the players who were are on that team are now back. So, we have four more years together, a World Championship together – all under the same coach, which is actually not the usual thing for USA Basketball. I think it is only the first time where I coach has repeated. So, it’s really just about: we had the right pieces, clearly, because we won a gold medal, and now it’s just we are all four years older, wiser, better – I hope, and now we added some amazing talent. We added some incredible talent with Elena (Delle Donne), Stewie (Breanna Stewart) and B.G. (Brittney Griner) So, I think that’s more what it’s about. It’s not anything different. I think it’s just older, so to speak.

Is this old hat for you now?
Each one is different. It really is. I understand that right now we are standing at five gold medals in a row, hopefully going for our sixth, and yeah, that’s a lot of time. People see that streak, and they view it as dominant, which it is, but each team has its own journey, its own path through this entire experience. And contrary to what the scoreboard might tell you, it’s really not that easy. It can be stressful at times trying to come together with these other players and figure it out and make it work. Yeah, we might make it look easy with some of the ways that we play and some of the teams that we’ve dominated, but it’s really not. There is some stress involved there, and with that being said, like I was trying to get to: each team has its own journey and that’s all we are focused on. And yes, have we been dominant, the U.S. as a whole? Absolutely, but there are no guarantees. And I’ve been on a team at the 2006 World Championship that lost. I know what that’s like. And to be honest … for those that were on that team, that’s a driving force. That’s in the back of our heads, whether we admit it or not. It’s there. So, that’s a driving force. We just want to put ourselves in a position to be successful, and that’s what we focus on.

Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
What is your role on this team?

Just anything that coach Auriemma needs me to do, all the little dirty work. And that’s the best part of this team and being a part of USA Basketball is that you are able to humble yourself versus what you are to your professional team. So, that means less of me, then that is what the situation is – rebounding, running the floor hard and setting good screens. Just making sure that my basketball IQ is at an all-time high, playing with Diana and Sue especially, so it’s great to be around them and just getting better.

How does it feel to have arrived in Rio?
Just to reiterate what Diana said, we have confidence. Doing the tour that we were able to do this past week and play against those top three teams definitely gave us confidence, more chemistry out there together, knowing what coach Auriemma expects out of the plays, Coach Reeves and Dawn (Staley) and Doug (Bruno).

Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
How would you rate this team?

I just feel like the longer USA Basketball is around and great players are participating, the better the teams have gotten. Thirty years from now, there might be a team that is better than ours, but I feel like looking from top to bottom, the talent, the experience, the records of some of the players coming in, it’s just really unbelievable to see. We do have the ability to make our own destiny.

How excited are you to be here?
I’m very excited. Finally, we’ve been waiting to get there. It was like this last week-and-a-half, we’ve just been running, trying to play catch up from the missed time that we weren’t able to get, because we were in season. So, we can finally exhale a little bit, get settled in our rooms, be in one time zone for more than two days and get the games started.

Is this the real Dream Team?
Well, this is my Dream Team. This is a blast. Like I was saying, we’ve been so busy the last 10 days or so, just trying to prepare and build excitement for the games, but my favorite moments have been when we’ve stepped on the court and played. It’s just been amazing. People who have been able to watch us in person, they feel what we feel when we play, just the joy, the fun, the passion, the energy, and every time we step on the court, we are getting more and more connected.

Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
Does it feel different now that you are in Rio?

Things are definitely sinking in. When you look around – whatever we’ve done today, looking around realizing that we are actually in Rio. We had practice today, and it’s cool. It’s cool to know that know we are actually getting started with the Olympics.

What do you want to bring to the team?
For me, I think the most important thing is to do whatever I can to make an impact. I’m not sure particularly what that means,  but to just make sure that I’m ready to go and have high energy and high intensity all of the time.

Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
Opening statement on the USA’s exhibition experience:

I think it was a crucial week for our preparation. We played against three really good teams that we know and we’ve played before in World Championships and other Olympics. And I think game-by-game, quarter-by-quarter, we got better. There are still things that we need to do to be really good and beat to beat these teams. And I think we just gained a lot of confidence being on the court. We don’t get a lot of prep time, so those games I felt like really helped us grow and add layers of why we are really good. And it was fun, too. We’re excited to be here. Like Sue and Tamika said, we’re ready to go.

Here's a link to all the quotes from the press conference.

The Olympic tournament begins on Saturday when France plays Turkey at 11 a.m. The U.S. plays its opener on Sunday at 11 a.m. against Senegal.