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UConn, St. John's to play in Maggie Dixon Classic

AP - Sports
UConn, St. John's to play in Maggie Dixon Classic
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The Connecticut team sings Happy Birthday behind head coach Geno Auriemma, right, as he is interviewed on live television after their 87-44 win over Prairie View A&M in a first-round game of the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 23, 2014, in Storrs, Conn. Today is Auriemma's 60th birthday. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Defending champion Connecticut will face St. John's in the ninth annual Maggie Dixon Classic on Jan. 4.

The Huskies, who went 40-0 last season en route to a record ninth national title, will be making their fourth appearance in the game at Madison Square Garden. The event honors former Army coach Maggie Dixon, who died of heart arrhythmia in 2006 at age 28.

UConn has never lost in its three appearances and beat Ohio State in 2010 to tie the vaunted UCLA men's basketball record 88-game winning streak. The Huskies went on to break it and win 90 consecutive contests.

Coach Geno Auriemma's current team has won 46 straight and back-to-back national championships, led by The Associated Press player of the year Breanna Stewart.

The former conference opponents played every year before the Big East broke up last season and UConn joined the American Athletic Conference.

The Red Storm are coming off another NCAA tournament appearance. St. John's beat USC before falling to Tennessee in the second round. Coach Joe Tartamella returns three starters from last season.

''We have always been honored to participate in such a meaningful event. This will be our fourth consecutive appearance in the Maggie Dixon Classic,'' Tartamella said. ''Having the opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden against the defending national champion UConn Huskies will be a great environment for a women's basketball game. Maggie meant so much to the game, and St. John's always has been proud to participate in her honor.''

Dixon's arrhythmia was likely 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.

The event also includes a health and heart expo. Garden officials are working to schedule a second game; the previous eight classics have been a doubleheader.

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 seven Classics have been played at Madison Square Garden.

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