NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden will honor the first women’s basketball game played at the arena 40 years ago with a rematch between Queens (N.Y.) and Immaculata as part of the Maggie Dixon Classic on Jan. 4.
Immaculata won the inaugural game 65-61 in front of 12,000 fans on Feb. 22, 1975.
“It was a defining moment for women’s basketball and for women in general,” said former WNBA President Donna Orender, who played for Queens College.
St. John’s (N.Y.) will face two-time defending champion Connecticut in the second game of the annual women’s basketball doubleheader that honors the former Army coach Maggie Dixon, who died of heart arrhythmia in 2006 at age 28.
“When you think about how far women’s college basketball has come in the past four decades you’d be remiss to not place a large share of the credit on the shoulders of those young women who laced it up in MSG 40 years ago,” Red Storm coach Joe Tartamella said. “Those first games that gave the casual fan a thirst for women’s basketball now gives us the opportunity to play in 20,000-seat arenas on a regular basis. They are the pioneers of the game that deserve much more credit than they currently receive.”
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 consecutive games 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.
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 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 past seven Classics have been played at Madison Square Garden.