Originally created 02/04/03

UConn unanimous in replacing Duke at No. 1



Connecticut left no room for doubt.

After an impressive victory at Duke, the Huskies were a unanimous choice to replace the Blue Devils at No. 1 in The Associated Press women's basketball poll on Monday.

Connecticut (20-0) is the only unbeaten team in Division I and has won a women's record 59 straight games. The Huskies received all 44 first-place votes from a national media panel and had 1,100 points.

Duke (20-1), No. 1 in the first 12 polls of the season, slipped to second with 1,038 points.

This season marked the first time the Blue Devils had been ranked No. 1. Their hopes of staying there ended with a 77-65 loss to UConn on Saturday night in front of a full house at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Connecticut's move to the top was expected and certainly nothing new for the Huskies, who coming into this season had been No. 1 in 49 of the previous 56 polls. They were No. 1 all last season, when they went 39-0 in winning their third national championship.

Does this mean UConn is the best team again?

"I have no idea," coach Geno Auriemma said. "I've coached a lot of No. 1 teams in the country and this one has a lot of those pieces missing. But so do a lot of other people.

"Who ever knows on February first or second? It just happens to be who's playing well at the time. If we played Duke again, who knows? If we played Tennessee on a neutral court, who knows what would happen? We're as good as anybody out there. Are we better? I don't know."

Connecticut beat Tennessee 63-62 in overtime in Hartford on Jan. 4. Tennessee (18-3) has won nine straight since and moved up one spot to third with 997 points - 41 behind Duke.

No. 4 LSU also climbed one spot, while Kansas State slipped two places to fifth after a 74-69 loss at unranked Iowa State. The Wildcats bounced back with a 74-45 victory at then-No. 19 Oklahoma.

Stanford remained sixth, while North Carolina and Texas Tech tied for seventh. Louisiana Tech was ninth and Purdue 10th.

Texas led the second 10 at No. 11 and Mississippi State moved up one place to 12th. Then it was Penn State, Arkansas and Minnesota, followed by South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt, UC Santa Barbara and Washington.

The final five were Wisconsin-Green Bay, Villanova, Boston College, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

Boston College (15-4), winner of four straight and eight of nine, returned after a two-week absence. The Eagles appeared in the first eight polls, dropped out for a week, came back at No. 24, then fell out the following week.

Arizona, 24th last week, dropped out after splitting two road games. The Wildcats (14-6), who had been ranked for nine weeks, lost at Oregon State in overtime and beat Oregon.

Washington (17-3) made the biggest jump within the poll, climbing from 25th to 20th after decisive victories over Southern California and UCLA. Washington's only loss in the last nine games was to Stanford.

Oklahoma, which lost to Texas in addition to Kansas State, fell five places to 24th for the biggest drop.

Connecticut lost national player of the year Sue Bird and three other starters from last season's team, but Auriemma has the program to the point where he can just plug in replacements and keep going.

His freshmen have combined with preseason All-American Diana Taurasi and veterans Maria Conlon, Ashley Battle and Jessica Moore to make the Huskies national title contenders again.

"They're just gaining more and more confidence every day," Auriemma said. "I thought we'd have a chance to be really good. I'm surprised where we are, but at the same time, I'm not shocked. Our expectation level is, this is what we expect."

That's not to say the Huskies are unbeatable, he added.

"Last year's team, unless something happened on the bus on the way to the game, nobody was going to beat us in the NCAA tournament," Auriemma said. "For this year's team, there's stumbling blocks all along the way.

"That's why we're not all jumping up and down and doing handstands that we're No. 1. That's not our focus right now."