Lady Monarchs Ranked 25th In AP
Jan. 22, 2002
By CHUCK SCHOFFNER
AP Sports Writer
Minnesota earned its first national ranking in nearly 20 years in The AP women's basketball poll Monday, while Connecticut and Tennessee remained 1-2.
Minnesota, 8-20 a year ago, has made a dramatic turnaround under first-year coach Brenda Oldfield and joined the poll at No. 23, its first appearance since the 1982-83 season.
The Golden Gophers (14-3) came in after beating then-No. 5 Wisconsin 92-85 Sunday before a sellout crowd of 17,000-plus at the Badgers' Kohl Center.
"Honestly, I never thought we'd be standing here 14-3 and upsetting the No. 5 team in the country," said Oldfield, who at 31 is the youngest coach in the Big Ten.
"At the same time, the vision was there when we stepped in. We always believed in ourselves and in each other. We always believed that when we stepped out on the court, we could play with anyone."
Connecticut has been No. 1 all season and was a unanimous choice for the third straight week. The Huskies, 21-0 after beating defending national champion Notre Dame 80-53 on Monday, received all 45 first-place votes from a national media panel and had 1,125 points.
Tennessee (16-1), which lost only to Connecticut, held its season-long spot at No. 2 after victories over South Carolina and Alabama. The Lady Vols had 1,080 points, and Stanford (18-1) moved up one place to third with 1,026.
It's Stanford's highest ranking since it finished the 1996-97 season at No. 3. The Cardinal have won 10 straight games since a 68-62 loss to Tennessee on Dec. 16.
Oklahoma lost to Iowa State but beat Texas and slipped one spot to fourth. No. 5 Duke, No. 6 Vanderbilt and No. 7 South Carolina each moved up one spot and Louisiana Tech climbed two places to eighth.
South Carolina bounced back from an 80-61 loss to Tennessee by beating Kentucky by 29 points.
The 92-85 loss to Minnesota ended Wisconsin's 15-game winning streak and dropped the Badgers four places to ninth. Purdue moved up one spot to 10th.
Big 12 teams held the first five places in the second 10.
Kansas State fell two spots to 11th after losing to unranked Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech went from 15th to 12th after beating two Top 25 opponents - Baylor and Iowa State. Texas fell one spot to 13th, Iowa State held at No. 14, and Baylor was 15th.
Virginia Tech went from 21st to 16th for the largest jump within the poll. Georgia, Florida, Colorado State and Colorado round out the Top 20.
North Carolina, Auburn, Minnesota, Boston College and Old Dominion held the final five places.
Oldfield, formerly the coach at Ball State and an assistant at Iowa State, took over at Minnesota after Cheryl Littlejohn was fired and with the program under investigation by the NCAA.
Her team established itself quickly and won nine of its first 10 games, with the only loss to Stanford. After winning only seven Big Ten games in the previous four seasons, the Gophers are 4-2 in the league now.
"The word is "hungry," Oldfield said. "Every step of the way, from the first day we met, to our conditioning program, to the first day of practice, I've never coached a better group with the work ethic they bring every day and their wanting to lay it all out there.
"It's a coach's dream."
Minnesota has not had a winning season since 1993-94, and appeared in the poll only 11 times before Monday. The Gophers were 20th on Dec. 12, 1982, and were in the final nine polls of the 1980-81 season.
Arizona State (15-5), which joined the poll last week at No. 23, dropped out after splitting two games. The Sun Devils beat UCLA but lost to Southern California.