Temple ranks at No. 24; top 3 hold steady

Updated: January 24, 2005, 2:40 PM ET
Associated Press

First it was the Eagles going to the Super Bowl, now it's the Temple women in the Top 25. Those Philly teams are on quite a roll.

Temple gave Philadelphia fans something else to celebrate when it joined The AP women's basketball poll for the first time Monday, moving in at No. 24 as one of four newcomers. Also joining were No. 21 Florida State, No. 22 Penn State and No. 25 North Carolina State.

Duke, LSU and Ohio State remained the top three teams, while Iowa, Virginia Tech, Purdue and UCLA dropped out. They held the final four spots last week. Purdue is unranked for the first time since the week of March 2, 1998, ending a string of 123 appearances in the poll.

Temple (15-3) rode a 12-game winning streak into the poll, continuing the gains coach Dawn Staley has made since taking the job in 2000.

"It wasn't necessarily just the Top 25, I wanted to be a national powerhouse," said Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a Philadelphia native. "I think you have to take steps toward getting to that point and this is certainly a huge step."

Florida State made the poll for the first time in 14 years, North Carolina State was last ranked in December of 2001 and Penn State returned after appearing in the first two polls this season.

Duke (18-1) received 31 of 45 first-place votes and held the No. 1 spot for the third straight week with 1,107 points -- 14 more than LSU. The Blue Devils beat Georgia Tech and Wake Forest last week to run the nation's longest winning streak to 16 heading into Monday's game against No. 12 North Carolina.

LSU (18-1) received the remaining 14 first-place votes from a national media panel after beating Arkansas and then-No. 17 Vanderbilt. Ohio State (19-2) defeated Indiana and Northwestern to easily hold on at No. 3.

Stanford moved up one spot to fourth, Tennessee climbed two places to fifth and Notre Dame jumped from 11th to sixth after a 16-point win over Rutgers. Baylor fell three spots to seventh after losing to Texas, and Rutgers dropped from sixth to eighth.

Connecticut returned to the Top 10 at No. 9, a gain of four places, and Minnesota climbed two spots to 10th.

No. 11 Michigan State, No. 12 North Carolina and No. 13 Texas Tech all dropped three spots after each split a pair of games. Boston College held at No. 14 and Texas remained 15th. They were followed by Kansas State, DePaul, Iowa State, Georgia and Maryland.

The only non-newcomer among the final five was Vanderbilt, which tumbled from 17th to 23rd after losing to Mississippi and LSU.

Temple's winning streak includes victories over Rutgers, Villanova and Richmond, putting the Owls on track to earn their third NCAA tournament berth in five seasons under Staley.

"It isn't an overnight thing," Staley said. "We've been constantly building year in and year out to us getting to be a national powerhouse. I look back on those (earlier) teams, those are the players that really laid the foundation for us to be a Top 25 team this week."

Florida State (17-2), which was last ranked the week of Feb. 11, 1991, beat Maryland and North Carolina in a four-day stretch to finally get back into the Top 25.

The Seminoles have succeeded after a difficult offseason. Ronalda Pierce, who would have been a sophomore on this season's team, died in June from an aneurysm.

"I felt like everybody pulled together and we stuck together all of the time, no matter what was thrown at us," said leading scorer Roneeka Hodges, who spent her first three seasons at LSU. "I felt like that was the stepping stone for the season."

Penn State (12-6) has won six straight after a 6-6 start that included six games against Top 25 teams. The Lady Lions own a victory over North Carolina and defeated four Big Ten teams when they were ranked -- Ohio State, Iowa, Purdue and Michigan State.

North Carolina State (15-4) has knocked off three ranked teams since Jan. 6, the latest a 67-55 victory at Maryland on Sunday.

Purdue dropped out despite ending a three-game losing streak -- its longest in five years -- with a 79-75 victory over Iowa on Sunday.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press