USC drops out of poll after two losses

Even after three more decisive victories, Duke is barely hanging on at No. 1 in The Associated Press women's basketball poll. Second-ranked Tennessee just won't let up.

Texas Tech kept its long run of appearances in the Top 25 going despite losing three straight games, while UCLA joined the rankings at No. 23 on Monday as the only newcomer. Southern California dropped out.

Duke (5-0) edged Tennessee (5-0) by seven points in the media voting to lead the poll for the third straight time. But Tennessee, which had two wins over Top 10 teams among four victories last week, held a 22-21 lead in first-place votes.

It was another case of voters flip-flopping between the two. Last week, Duke had a 23-18 edge in first-place votes and led by 19 points. In the preseason poll, Tennessee led 23-17 in first-place votes but Duke had a five-point margin in total points.

Duke won three times during the past week, beating Fairfield 110-44, Arkansas State 110-56 and Auburn 69-37. The Blue Devils' average victory margin this season is 43 points, but they should get a much better test in their next game, Sunday at No. 16 Texas.

Texas plays at Tennessee on Thursday.

Tennessee finished a busy week with three victories in the Virgin Islands, including an 83-55 thumping of then-No. 9 Michigan State and an 80-75 win over Maryland, which moved from 10th to ninth on Monday.

That performance was enough to persuade Ricardo Cooney of the Lansing, Mich., State Journal to change his first-place vote from Duke to Tennessee.

"I looked at who Duke had played and they were teams of not a lot of consequence. They weren't ranked," Cooney said. "Tennessee beat two ranked teams. That did it for me."

Scott Nulph of The Tribune in Ames, Iowa, also thought the Lady Vols had an impressive week.

"It confirmed what I was thinking of them," said Nulph, who has been voting Tennessee No. 1 all along. "I think they're it right now."

Texas Tech (1-4), off to its worst start since the 1978-79 season, fell 10 places to remain in the poll at No. 24, keeping intact a streak of consecutive appearances that now stands at 248. The Lady Raiders went 0-3 last week, losing each time by three
points -- at Rice, at Mississippi and at home to Stanford, which climbed three places to 12th.

Tech is trying to adjust to playing without senior guard Chesley Dabbs, who has been lost for the season with a torn ACL in her left knee. The Lady Raiders have been ranked in every poll since the week of Jan. 19, 1992.

The top eight in the poll stayed the same, with LSU third and Ohio State fourth, followed by Baylor, Rutgers, North Carolina and Connecticut. LSU received two first-place votes and Baylor had one.

Maryland and Minnesota completed the Top 10. Minnesota climbed two spots after defeating Nevada and Virginia.

No. 11 Notre Dame also was up two places. Then it was Stanford, Michigan State, DePaul and Arizona State, followed by Texas, Georgia, Temple, Vanderbilt and Oklahoma.

New Mexico, Purdue, UCLA, Texas Tech and Utah held the final five places. New Mexico's move from 25th to 21st gave the Lobos their highest ranking in the school's four poll appearances.

Michigan State also lost to Maryland in the Virgin Islands and fell four spots, while Georgia tumbled from 11th to 17th after an 84-64 loss to UCLA.

UCLA (2-2) got off to a rough start, losing at Baylor and at home to BYU before bouncing back to beat Georgia. The Bruins defeated Charlotte 87-71 the next night.

Southern Cal (2-2), which had been 24th, dropped out after losing to Long Beach State and Notre Dame. USC's appearance in the poll this season was its first since November 1995.