Huskies hit No. 11, lowest in almost 11 years

Updated: December 27, 2004, 6:49 PM ET
Associated Press

Connecticut's long run is over. The dominant program in women's basketball over the last decade no longer is a Top 10 team.

On a day that New Mexico joined the AP poll for the first time, Connecticut dropped to 11th after splitting two road games, ending a run of 199 straight appearances in the top 10.

The last time the Huskies were ranked this low was the week of Jan. 25, 1994. They moved to ninth the following week and had been in the top 10 in every poll since until Monday. UConn won five national championships along the way, including the last three.

Connecticut (5-2), which had been eighth, lost at Arizona State 61-50 last week, then beat Colorado State 63-44 two days later. Not since the 1992-93 season had the Huskies lost twice in the first six games.

During its long stint in the top 10, Connecticut spent 94 weeks at No. 1 and rarely was out of the top four.

"It has been as big a struggle as anytime I've been at Connecticut," coach Geno Auriemma said last week.

Although ranked teams were involved in just 18 games last week, that was enough to produce some significant changes in the poll.

LSU remained unanimous at No. 1 in the voting by a nationwide media panel, but Duke replaced Stanford at No. 2 and Baylor moved up to third, its highest ranking ever. Michigan State joined the top 10 for the first time.

New Mexico has gained national attention under coach Don Flanagan by winning consistently and drawing huge crowds to The Pit and the Lobos finally squeezed into the poll, joining at No. 25.

"It's a compliment to these players and our program," said Flanagan, whose teams have made seven straight postseason tournament appearances. "It says a lot about our schedule and the early success that we've had."

Arizona State returned at No. 21 after a one-week absence, while Houston and UCLA dropped out.

LSU (11-0) completed a long road trip with a 72-52 victory at UC Santa Barbara last week and received all 45 first-place votes, the fourth straight week the Lady Tigers were unanimous.

Stanford (8-1) lost at Tennessee on a last-second shot in its only game last week and dropped to fifth, enabling Duke (11-1) to climb one spot to second. Duke finished the pre-Christmas portion of its schedule with an 81-31 rout of Ball State.

Baylor (9-1), fifth last week, jumped past Texas into the No. 3 spot, just one point ahead of the Longhorns. The Lady Bears have won nine straight since a 71-70 loss to LSU in their opener.

Texas held at No. 4 and Stanford was fifth, followed by Notre Dame, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio State and Michigan State. The Spartans moved up from 11th, which had been their highest ranking previously.

Minnesota was 12th and Texas Tech 13th. Then it was Boston College, Vanderbilt and Georgia, followed by Maryland, Iowa, DePaul and Purdue.

Arizona State, Kansas State, UCLA, Rutgers and New Mexico held the final five places.

New Mexico did not receive any votes two weeks ago, then opened some eyes with a 61-45 victory over Arizona State on Dec. 18 -- three days before ASU knocked off Connecticut.

The Lobos have only one player with a double-figure scoring average, Lindsey Arndt (11.3), but they don't need to score a lot because their defense is so good. New Mexico, which has lost only to Texas, is holding opponents to 48.9 points a game and 35.5 percent shooting.

Flanagan is seeking his eighth straight winning season at New Mexico. He took the job in 1995 after compiling a record that strains credulity -- 401-13 -- as a high school coach in Albuquerque.

Arizona State joined the poll two weeks ago after upsetting Georgia, then fell out after the loss to New Mexico.

Houston, which was 22nd last week, dropped out after a two-point loss at Long Beach State. The Cougars had been ranked for three weeks. Utah, which had joined the poll at No. 25 just last week, lost to Oklahoma at home.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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