UConn falls to fourth after loss to Villanova

Updated: March 1, 2004, 6:24 PM ET
Associated Press

Tennessee is getting another chance at No. 1. Now comes the tricky part: staying there.

The Lady Vols replaced Connecticut atop The Associated Press' women's basketball poll Monday after the Huskies were upset by Villanova for the second straight year.

But keeping the top spot has been harder than getting there; this change is the fifth in the last nine weeks. The longest stint at No. 1 in that stretch was Duke's three weeks.

"For us right now, where we're ranked is not as important to me as how we play," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "I don't think the team is focused on that. They know not many people think we're the most talented team in the country.

"All we want to do is keep working and keep getting better and hopefully we'll have a chance to be the best team."

Villanova, which joined the poll at No. 23, beat Connecticut 59-56 Saturday night. Last year, the Wildcats ended Connecticut's 70-game winning streak in the Big East tournament title game.

Connecticut led the poll the first eight weeks of the season, but lasted only one week in its return to No. 1, dropping to fourth Monday.

Tennessee (25-2) was No. 1 for two weeks before losing to UConn on Feb. 5. That was the Lady Vols' only loss in the past 19 games, and they went 14-0 in the Southeastern Conference despite losing starting point guard Loree Moore to a knee injury Jan. 24.

"I told them yesterday, 'There's something special here,'" Summitt said. "It's one of the most special groups I've worked with in my 30-year career. This team has something inside of them that has allowed them to compete with a great deal of confidence."

Tennessee received 34 of 47 first-place votes from a national media panel and had 1,159 points -- 55 more than No. 2 Duke.

In all, five teams had at least one first-place vote, matching the highest number since the poll switched from a coaches' panel to media voting in 1994.

Duke received four first-place votes, No. 3 Texas had three, Connecticut got five, and No. 5 Penn State received one.

Purdue dropped two places to sixth after a loss at Penn State on Sunday ended its 15-game winning streak. Louisiana Tech was seventh, followed by Kansas State, Texas Tech and North Carolina.

Houston jumped six places to 11th after beating then-No. 13 TCU for its ninth straight win. Stanford slipped two spots to 12th after splitting two one-point road games. Colorado was 13th, followed by Baylor, LSU, TCU, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Auburn and Georgia.

Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Villanova and DePaul and Michigan State held the final five places.

Villanova (21-5), which has won seven straight games, returned to the Top 25 after being ranked for two weeks in January. Miami, which was 21st, dropped out after splitting two games -- a 93-58 loss to unranked Notre Dame and an 82-74 victory over West Virginia.

Oklahoma matched Houston for the biggest jump in the poll, going from 23rd to 17th after beating Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

Minnesota continued to struggle without leading scorer Lindsay Whalen, sidelined by a broken hand. The Gophers lost to Ohio State and Michigan and tumbled six places to 18th.

DePaul has lost three straight games and fell four spots from 20th. The Blue Demons were 12th two weeks ago.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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