Missouri cracks AP poll while Texas, Utah drop out

Once a regular in the AP women's basketball poll, Missouri finally is back in -- after a 21-year wait.

The Tigers got themselves noticed by beating Baylor to end the nation's longest winning streak and joined the poll at No. 24 on Monday. Missouri (12-2) has matched its best start through 14 games and is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since the 1992-93

"The key for us is not to get wrapped up in all this hoopla now," Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. "We have to stay focused. We haven't proven anything yet. As quickly as you got there, you could fall out."

North Carolina State returned at No. 25, while Texas and Utah dropped out as part of a major shuffling in the poll. Tennessee, Duke and LSU remained the top three teams, but only two others held the same position as last week -- No. 6 Maryland and No. 7 Connecticut.

Among the changes: Arizona State lost to a pair of unranked opponents and tumbled from ninth to 15th, Notre Dame fell eight spots to 20th after two losses to unranked teams and Temple jumped five spots to 19th for the biggest gain.

Tennessee solidified its hold on No. 1 with an 89-80 victory over Connecticut in their annual regular-season tussle. The Lady Vols, whose 15-0 record is now the nation's longest winning streak, also beat Old Dominion and South Carolina and received 35 of 46 first-place votes.

They had 1,138 points in the voting, 30 more than Duke. Duke (14-0) passed its biggest test so far with an 86-68 victory at Maryland and received nine first-place votes. The two other
first-place votes went to LSU (13-0), which had a 21-point win over then-No. 15 Minnesota.

Missouri, which received no votes last week, beat Baylor 64-61 on Wednesday to end a 30-game winning streak for the defending national champion. The Tigers followed up by defeating Kansas State 68-42 for their 11th straight win.

"That was a big emphasis," Stein said. "We wanted to prove that (beating Baylor) wasn't any kind of fluke. We wanted to make sure we dominated the Kansas State game."

Missouri was ranked 60 times in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Tigers' long absence from the poll began when they dropped out the week of Jan. 6, 1985.

North Carolina moved up one spot to fourth and Baylor slipped one place to fifth. Maryland and Connecticut were next, followed by Ohio State, Michigan State and Rutgers. Ohio State and Michigan State each climbed two places, while Rutgers fell two spots after losing at Michigan State.

No. 11 DePaul and No. 12 Purdue each moved up two places, while Georgia was up four spots to 13th. Then it was Stanford, Arizona State and Oklahoma, followed by Minnesota, New Mexico, Temple and Notre Dame.

Virginia Tech, Boston College, Vanderbilt, Missouri and North Carolina State held the final five places.

NC State (10-4) comes in off a loss, 65-64 at Wake Forest. But the Wolfpack beat Virginia Tech 65-44 earlier in the week and had won eight of nine, including a victory over Vanderbilt, before the loss.

Coach Kay Yow's team was No. 23 in the preseason poll, then was ranked for two weeks in early December.

Texas (6-6), which had been 23rd, is out of the poll for the first time since the week of Nov. 19, 2001, ending a run of 81 consecutive appearances. The Longhorns lost to Baylor and unranked Kansas in their first two Big 12 games, the first time they've started conference play 0-2.

Utah, 22nd last week, dropped out after losing to New Mexico and BYU.

Arizona State had matched its highest ranking ever at No. 9 last week, then went on the road and lost to Southern Cal and UCLA.

Notre Dame's losing streak reached three, the longest for the Irish in eight years, with losses to St. John's and Seton Hall.