By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ The last time UConn played in the Maggie Dixon Classic, the Huskies tied UCLA for the longest winning streak in NCAA college basketball history.
Defending national champion Connecticut will make its return to Madison Square Garden to play California on Dec. 22 in the eighth annual women’s basketball doubleheader, which honors the late Army women’s basketball coach. Dixon died in April 2006 of arrhythmia, probably caused by an enlarged heart. Her death came three weeks after her first season as a head coach, when she led Army to its first NCAA berth.
Texas A&M will face St. John’s in the first game.
UConn met Ohio State in the 2010 Classic and beat the Buckeyes for the Huskies’ 88th straight victory to match the Bruins’ vaunted streak. Connecticut went on to win a record 90 consecutive games before losing at Stanford.
The Huskies are coming off their eighth national championship in April and return most of the team, including the most outstanding player of the NCAA tournament, Breanna Stewart. Geno Auriemma’s squad will face Cal, which had the best season in school history. The Golden Bears reached the Final Four for the first time before falling to Louisville.
“The opportunity to play UConn in a marquee matchup at the world’s best known arena, Madison Square Garden, is an exciting step for our program,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “More than anything, however, Cal women’s basketball is honored to take part in a tournament that bears Maggie Dixon’s name. Maggie was a friend of mine and an inspiration to many. This is the premier event in women’s college basketball and we are very much looking forward to coming to New York and taking part.”
The game will also serve as a homecoming for Gottlieb, who grew up just outside the city.
While it will be Cal’s first time playing in the Classic, the Aggies are making their return to the Garden. They also played in it in 2010. St. John’s will be in the Classic for a third straight season. The Red Storm are still looking for their first victory after losing to Baylor and Duke.
“For us to be chosen by the Garden and the Dixon family to play in this premier basketball event for the third year is such a tremendous honor,” said St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella. “The Maggie Dixon Classic is a prestigious event, for an even greater cause and played in the spirit and honor of an inspirational young coach, Maggie, who I was fortunate to briefly meet in 2006.”
The inaugural 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 last six Classics have been played at Madison Square Garden.
Along with games at the Garden, there will be a health and heart expo.
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)