Tennessee knocks Duke off No. 1 spot in women's poll

Two more victories over ranked teams finally did it for Tennessee. The Lady Vols are back at No. 1 in The AP women's basketball poll.

Tennessee replaced Duke at the top of the poll on Monday, the 97th time a Pat Summitt team has led the rankings. Connecticut and coach Geno Auriemma have 94 appearances at No. 1.

Another longtime power, Texas Tech, dropped out after its fourth loss in five games, ending the school's string of consecutive appearances in the poll at 248. North Carolina State returned at No. 25 after being out for two weeks.

Tennessee (7-0) had run a close second to Duke (6-0) in the first three polls this season, but the Lady Vols' two victories this past week pushed them past the Blue Devils. First, they overwhelmed then-No. 16 Texas 102-61 in Knoxville. Then they flew
to the West Coast and beat then-No. 12 Stanford 74-67 three days later.

Tennessee received 28 of 46 first-place votes from a national media panel and had 1,128 points. Duke was a strong No. 2 with 16 first-place votes and 1,115 points. LSU (4-0) was third with two first-place votes and 1,042 points.

Duke led by seven points last week even though Tennessee had a 22-21 edge in first-place votes.

Carl Adamec of the Manchester, Conn., Journal Inquirer had been voting Duke No. 1, but changed his mind after what Tennessee did to Texas. The Lady Vols jumped to a 17-0 lead and never gave the Longhorns a chance.

Duke also played Texas, winning 84-70 in Austin in its only game last week.

"They've just been so impressive," Adamec said of the Lady Vols. "To do what they've done, obviously they're the best team. That's not to take anything away from Duke. They're terrific, too. But the Texas game, seeing that on national TV was a eye-opener."

Tennessee also has defeated No. 9 Maryland and No. 13 Michigan State this season. Michigan State was ranked ninth when it lost to the Lady Vols 83-55 in the Virgin Islands.

Playing a tough schedule is nothing new for Tennessee. But even Summitt concedes this one was extreme.

"We have survived the most challenging early season schedule in the history of our program," she said. "This was not a schedule designed to be undefeated at this time, but our team has met the challenge of finishing out the close the games."

It has been a full year since Tennessee last held the No. 1 ranking. The Lady Vols led the first three polls last season, fell as low as 10th in early January and finished third.

Tennessee is on a run of 362 consecutive appearances in the poll. The Lady Vols have been unranked only 14 times in 503 polls.

Starting with LSU, there were no changes through No. 9. Ohio State was fourth and Baylor fifth, followed by Rutgers, North Carolina, Connecticut and Maryland. Notre Dame moved up one spot to 10th.

Stanford, which beat Pacific 109-58 in its other game last week, climbed one place into a tie for 11th with DePaul, which moved up three spots. Michigan State held at No. 13 and was followed by Minnesota, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and

Vanderbilt, UCLA, Utah, Purdue and North Carolina State held the final five places.

Oklahoma made the biggest jump within the poll, moving up four places to 16th after beating TCU and Oral Roberts. Minnesota fell four places to 14th after splitting a pair of games -- a 62-44 loss at New Mexico and a 78-70 win over Nebraska. Texas slipped three spots to 19th.

Texas Tech (2-5) ended a three-game losing streak with a 63-53 victory over Sacramento State, then lost at Penn State 78-72 in two overtimes. The Lady Raiders are unranked for the first time since Jan. 12, 1992.

Tech coach Marsha Sharp said the ranking wasn't as important as trying "to fix"' problem areas.

"I still believe in this team and that we have the ability to be a top 25 team," she said. "We just have to make plays on both ends of the court."

North Carolina State (5-2), which started the season at No. 21, dropped out after an early loss to Saint Joseph's. The Wolfpack have won three of four since then, including a victory over Vanderbilt.