UConn’s Superstar Sophomore Brianna Stewart Impresses at Maggie Dixon Classic

New York, NY---The 8TH annual Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden has become the site for some of the highest rated programs and greatest players in women’s college basketball as well as an event that focuses on improving heart health.

The doubleheader on Sunday included the current national champion, the University of Connecticut Huskies (12-0), and one of last season’s Final Four teams, the California Golden Bears (7-3).  

California coach Lindsay Gottlieb, a native of Scarsdale, spoke of her feelings of returning home to the New York area, coming to play in the Garden and facing UConn, "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. 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.” Each of the four college coaches in this year’s tournament expressed similar respectful sentiments towards the late coach of women’s basketball at Army.

A strong candidate to follow the reputation of the 2013 graduate of Baylor, Brittany Griner, as the top college women’s player is Breanna Stewart of Connecticut. As a college freshman in 2012-13, Stewart was voted the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) in last season’s NCAA Tournament and won the preseason poll as Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year for this year.

The accolades that have been bestowed and those that are yet be awarded to the 6-4 forward are very much deserved. The superiority of the Huskies over all their opponents may even underrate the abilities of an individual player, in this case, Stewart.

Her contributions to the easy victory over #21 Cal on Sunday may not be noticed by her final statistics in her 27 minutes on the court since her team won by a score of 80-47. She did tie the Maggie Dixon mark with 29 points in the game. She also tied the field goal record with 12. Stewart recorded her third consecutive double-double by grabbing 10 rebounds to go with her 29 points. Her versatility was also exhibited by her two steals, one blocked shot and two assists. Of this attribute, the young woman commented, “I enjoy the versatility. Being consistent is one of the things I wanted to concentrate on this year.”

Her presence in Sunday’s game was most crucial in the opening minutes, when the game was close. Stewart scored 13 of her team’s first 16 points to move the Huskies lead to its highest point during the first 11 minutes (16-9 at 9:13).  Of that time in the contest, she told reporters, “I was trying to be more aggressive to get the team going.” She was the only player on either team to play the entire first half. In that 20 minutes, she scored 21 and grabbed 8 boards.

As the Connecticut lead ballooned to more than 30, Coach Geno Auriemma sat Stewart. She only played seven minutes in the second period. When asked to speak about his current superstar at the postgame press conference, Auriamma enthusiastically replied, “We’ve never had anybody like her and we’ve had an incredible amount of very, very great players. We’ve never had anyone with the God given talent she has. She comes to practice every day and tries to be great and it’s paid off. You can’t stop her.”

Cal coach Gottlieb was no less impressed than the Connecticut coach, “There’s nothing Brianna Stewart couldn’t do. She played like the superstar All-American she is.”

All of Stewart’s heroics were accomplished in her first game at MSG. Of it she remarked, “My first game at the Garden was a lot of fun.” Doing one’s job when you’re young, healthy and extremely talented is a lot of fun.