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Monday, January 10, 2005
Rutgers moves to No. 4

Associated Press

Rutgers keeps rising, Connecticut is still falling and Duke is back at No. 1.

The AP women's basketball poll underwent more upheaval Monday, nothing new in this season of change among the Top 25.

Duke replaced LSU as the No. 1 team, regaining the position it held at the end of last season. Rutgers jumped from 14th to fourth after beating its third Top 10 opponent in eight days, while Connecticut slipped one spot to 16th after a 68-67 loss at home to Tennessee, the lowest the five-time national champions have been since they were 18th on Nov. 30, 1993.

UConn (8-4) has fallen in three straight polls after starting the season at No. 4.

Rutgers was 24th only two weeks ago, then upset Tennessee, Texas and LSU in succession. The Scarlet Knights' climb of 20 places was the largest two-week jump in the poll's 29 years.

"I hope we can continue it," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said.

Iowa State was the only newcomer, joining at No. 24 to replace New Mexico.

Duke (15-1) became the third team to hold the top spot this season, moving up from second after LSU's 51-49 overtime loss at Rutgers. The Blue Devils have won 13 straight by an average of 32.6 points, but they aren't into celebrating their top ranking.

"I don't think it matters, to tell you the truth," center Mistie Williams said. "Like everybody's saying, it's one strange basketball season. Anything can happen. People that have claimed to be No. 1 in their conference or in the nation aren't there anymore.

"I think it's just fun for everybody to know that, hey, maybe it's our year."

Duke had never been No. 1 before the 2002-03 season. The Blue Devils led the poll the first 12 weeks of that season and were No. 1 five times last season.

Tennessee was No. 1 the first three weeks this season. LSU then led for six weeks.

Duke received 22 of 45 first-place votes from a national media panel and had 1,093 points. Baylor (12-1) climbed one spot to second, getting 12 first-places votes and 1,063 points. LSU (14-1) slipped to third with seven first-place votes and 1,055 points, while Rutgers had four first-place votes and 920 points.

Rutgers made the Top 10 for the first time since the week of March 5, 2001, and reached its highest ranking since it was fourth in the 1999-2000 preseason poll.

The Scarlet Knights have been helped by the return of senior guard Cappie Pondexter, who sat out the first eight games for personal reasons. They're also getting solid play from freshmen Matee Ajavon and Essence Carson, who helped their team rally from 16 points down at Texas and 11 points down against LSU.

"They never say quit and they have been able to do what few teams are able to do -- focus on each possession one at a time," Stringer said. "Focus on defense when you're on defense and focus on offensive execution when you're on offense. It's great."

Ohio State jumped four places to fifth, Stanford climbed two spots to sixth and Notre Dame fell three places to seventh after losing at Villanova. Tennessee went from 10th to eighth, while Michigan State and North Carolina tied for ninth.

North Carolina dropped from fifth after losing at Maryland. Michigan State lost at Ohio State and dropped three places.

Minnesota remained 11th and Texas, which has been ranked as high as second this season, dropped from seventh to 12th after losing at Baylor.

After Texas Tech at No. 13, it was Boston College, Maryland, Connecticut, Vanderbilt, Georgia, UCLA and Purdue. Maryland made the biggest jump in that group, going from 21st to 15th after its 92-77 victory over North Carolina. It's the highest ranking for the Terrapins since they were 11th in the final poll of the 1992-93 season.

The final five teams were Purdue, Iowa, DePaul, Kansas State, Iowa State and Virginia Tech.

Iowa State (12-1) came in with a nine-game winning streak that included a 78-59 victory over then-No. 20 Kansas State. The Cyclones were last ranked the week of Nov. 25, 2002, when they were 20th.

New Mexico, which had been ranked for the first time in school history, lost at Minnesota 75-35 and dropped out after two weeks in the Top 25. The Lobos were 23rd.