UConn, Louisville to host US women's team in exhibitions

Diana Taurasi was excited to have another chance to play at Connecticut.

This time she'll be wearing a USA jersey as the national team will play the No. 5 Huskies in an exhibition game on Jan. 27 at the XL Center.

"It's always special when you get to go home," Taurasi said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I get to see so many faces that supported our program. The media, the fans, the alumni. Going back to Connecticut is always special and sweet."

Taurasi would have preferred if the game had been played on campus instead of in Hartford.

"A little part of me would have loved Gampel," she said. "It's one of the great basketball house's in the country. To be on campus is really great."

It will be Taurasi's second time playing against UConn, where she won three national championships. She also helped the U.S. win an exhibition game in 2007. UConn also played the national team in 1995-96 before the Americans won the first of their six consecutive Olympic gold medals.

Taurasi isn't the only former Huskies great playing with the U.S. right now. She's currently joined by Sue Bird and Napheesa Collier. There's a chance that Breanna Stewart and Tina Charles and a few other former UConn players might be in Connecticut in February.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the fans to see some of the best players in the world," UConn coach and former USA Basketball head coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's a great opportunity for our players to play against some of the best players in the world. It's an opportunity for the U.S. National Team to go around the country and build some momentum going into the Olympics. I wish we would have done it when I was coaching. It's a tremendous idea, and I'm sure our fans are going to turn out."

The game against the Huskies will mark the third time a USA National Team has played a Connecticut squad. Previously the 1995-96 USA National Team downed UConn 83-47 behind 20 points from eventual Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie, while Leslie scored a game-high 19 points in a 90-74 USA victory in November 2007.

The U.S. team will also play against No. 9 Louisville on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2.

"What an unbelievable opportunity for our program and our fans to host the USA National Team," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said in a statement. "They have had so much success, they are an inspiration to women and girls everywhere. It's an honor to play them on our home court and I'm looking forward to our fans packing the KFC Yum! Center."

Former Louisville star Angel McCoughtry is part of the talent pool and could play against her alma mater.

The Americans are working on adding one other exhibition game before they play in the Olympic qualifying tournament in February. The U.S. has already secured a spot in next summer's Tokyo Games by winning the World Cup last year.

The U.S. has already played two games on its fall schedule beating No. 3 Stanford and seventh-ranked Oregon State. The Americans play at Texas A&M on Thursday night and then at No. 1 Oregon on Saturday.

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