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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Playing in Maggie Dixon Classic always special to UConn's Auriemma

Being a part of high-profile events is nothing new to UConn's Geno Auriemma. Whether it was the annual games on Martin Luther King. Jr. Day or participation in the Jimmy V Classic, a call to UConn is usually one of the first actions by tournament organizers.

However, for Auriemma this is nothing quite so precious as being a part of the Maggie Dixon Classic which is something that will happen on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Madison Square Garden when the Huskies play St. John's.

"We've been incredibly fortunate to be part of the Martin Luther King game for its seems like the last 20 years and part of the Jimmy V Classic," Auriemma said on a Friday morning conference call. "Both of those things are huge, both of those things are important and certainly have a tremendous amount of social significance. But this particular game, Maggie Dixon (Classic) is a little personal for me because I have a personal connection with Maggie and her family so it is different, it is more meaningful from a personal standpoint to me. When I get to the Arena, I see Jamie (Dixon, Pittsburgh's men's basketball coach and Maggie's brother) or I see Maggie's mom and dad there it is more personal."

UConn played in the event three previous times, defeating Penn State in 2008, Ohio State in 2010 and California in 2013. This year will be a little different. Rather than playing unfamiliar opponents, UConn will meet up with former Big East rival St. John's. It is the third time this season the Huskies will play a non-conference game against a team they used to play in the Big East.
"It is a little bit different, it was DePaul for sure," Auriemma said. "There is no way to recreate what it used to be. Even our game with Notre Dame, there was a time when we knew we would play each at least three times (a season) and it is a little bit different. I respect those teams in the Big East, my door is always open and if they want to play, continue that tradition we used to have, I am all for that it is we know and they know it is a whole different mentality right now."

Auriemma is also looking forward to bringing his team back into Madison Square Garden for the Sunday game.

"It (MSG) is right up there with the Palestra," Auriemma said. "I think the tradition that it had and it is earned. Places like Madison Square Garden and places like the Palestra, they don't have that aura just because somebody decided to give them that aura, they have earned that over the last 60-70 years it seems like. If you think about some of the games, some of the teams, some of the coaches that have played in the Garden, been in those locker room, stood on those sidelines, stood on that court, it is pretty remarkable that you have an opportunity to do that. It is something you will look back on in your career ... One of our walk ons the last time we played there we played California and one of our walk-ons Tierney Lawlor made a 3 and that is a moment that will be with her for the rest of her life so I think there are things that go on at the Garden that are special and anytime our kids play there I always look forward to it."

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