UConn Basketball Powerhouse a Presence in Rio

The five former Huskies on the USA Basketball Women's National Team, along with head coach Geno Auriemma and from left, Jen Rizzotti, Kevin DeMille, and Jamelle Elliott. (Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)e 2016 USA Basketball Women’s National Team, at the Madison Square Garden training facility in New York on July 30, 2016. (Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
The heavy UConn presence on the USA Basketball Women's National Team will bring its talents to Rio when the team opens Olympic play on Sunday. (Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

When on Sunday the New York Times crossword puzzle offered the clue “powerhouse in women’s basketball,” the answer may have seemed like a slam dunk to those with even a passing interest in the sport.

UConn women’s basketball has won 11 NCAA national championships – the most recent four in consecutive years.  So the five-letter clue, well, just fit.

Sports fans hope the heavy UConn presence on the USA Basketball Women’s National Team will bring its talents to Rio when the team opens Olympic play against Senegal on Sunday, Aug. 7, at 11 a.m.

Coached by UConn women’s head coach Geno Auriemma, and with five UConn stars on the 12-member roster, one national headline declared the team “has a decidedly UConn flavor.” Former Huskies Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, and Breanna Stewart all played for Auriemma.

Bird and Taurasi will be competing in their fourth Olympic games, while Charles and Moore will compete in their second.  Stewart, who helped Team USA win gold at the 2014 World Championship, is competing in the Olympics for the first time.

The U.S. women’s team is going for its sixth straight gold:  they have taken home the gold in each of the games since 1996. Addressing the team after practice in Houston on Tuesday, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said the team “have a target on their backs.” Despite the pressure, however, Auriemma told a press conference Tuesday, “If the look of them has been any indication these last couple of weeks, this team is really, really ready.”

Fans can watch this Sunday’s game via live stream.