Sunday had extra meaning for the Hall of Fame coach. When No. 2 UConn beat St. John’s 70-54, the event served as a chance to honor the legacy of Maggie Dixon along with 40 years of women’s basketball at the Garden.
The annual women’s doubleheader at MSG is named after former Army coach Maggie Dixon, who died of heart arrhythmia in 2006 at age 28. The opener Sunday was a rematch between Immaculata and Queens College, the first women’s game ever played at the Garden 40 years ago. Queens College won 76-60 on Sunday.
“It’s always good to play here, but it’s not just a regular-season game,” Auriemma said. “It’s more personal, I think. My relationship with the (Dixon) family … it means a lot to me. I think it’s good that we can keep it going, keep her memory alive.”
Junior forward Breanna Stewart led UConn with 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in the ninth annual Maggie Dixon Classic. Morgan Tuck scored 23 points for the Huskies (12-1), while Moriah Jefferson added 16.
UConn led by seven at the half before Tuck fueled a 13-2 run, scoring 11 straight points. Her 3-pointer made it 51-33 with 16:09 left.
Tuck is playing her first full season after being injured for the most of her first two.
“She has a run like she did in the second half and it makes you realize how good she is,” said Auriemma, who received the Maggie Dixon Courage award before the game.
St. John’s (12-2) could get no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
The Red Storm hung around with UConn in the first half behind Danaejah Grant’s 13 points.
Aliyyah Handford led St. John’s with 20 points.
“The difference was turnovers and us going down on offense and one pass and firing,” Handford said. “That’s what they wanted us to do.”
There was a symposium hosted by former New York Liberty star Sue Wicks between the two matchups that featured some of the former greats from the game 40 years ago. The event also included a health and heart expo.
The first Maggie Dixon Classic was held at Army in 2006 a men’s and women’s doubleheader. The Pittsburgh men, coached by Maggie’s brother Jamie, beat Western Michigan, and Ohio State routed Army. The past eight Classics have been played at Madison Square Garden.
The Garden honored participants from that first women’s game 40 years ago by bringing them out at the half of the first matchup. Honorees included former WNBA President Donna Orender, who was a freshman on the Queens team.
UConn: Stewart became the third fastest player in school history to reach 1,500 points in her career. It took her only 88 games. Maya Moore did it in 81 and Kerry Bascom in 87. … Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis did it in 97 games.
St. John’s: The Red Storm beat their first ranked opponent since 2012 when they topped No. 23 Seton Hall on Friday. The last time they pulled off consecutive wins against Top 25 teams was also 2012. … This is the fourth time that St. John’s is playing in the Maggie Dixon Classic. The school earned its first win last season beating Texas A&M. The Red Storm also lost to Baylor and Duke.