Dec. 12, 2000
By CHUCK SCHOFFNER
December is just too early for Notre Dame to get excited over where it's ranked in the women's basketball poll, even if it is a new high for the program.
Notre Dame, 8-0 for the first time, moved up one spot to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll on Monday, its highest ranking ever. Only Connecticut and Tennessee are ahead of the Irish.
``We're not that interested in polls at this point,'' coach Muffet McGraw said. ``We're interested in the final poll. We're kind of setting our sights for that. We're not worrying where we are in the meantime.''
Connecticut (7-0) continued its season-long run at No. 1 after three more decisive victories. The Huskies swept all 40 first-place votes from a national media panel and have been a unanimous choice for the top spot in every poll.
UConn had 1,000 points in the voting. Tennessee (7-0), which was second on every ballot, had 960 and Notre Dame 919.
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma was upset with his team's sloppy play in its 77-53 victory at Miami, but the Huskies rebounded to beat Holy Cross 92-32 and Illinois 97-55. The 24-point margin against Miami was UConn's closest game this season.
Duke, which was third last week, fell to seventh after a 93-75 loss to Clemson. The Blue Devils were the only member of the Top 25 to lose to an unranked team last week.
Georgia moved to fourth, Iowa State climbed two spots to fifth for its highest ranking in history and Purdue remained at No. 6. Duke, Rutgers, Auburn and Louisiana Tech completed the Top Ten.
Texas Tech fell from eighth to 11th after losing to North Carolina State, Penn State was 12th and North Carolina State jumped eight places to 13th. Then it was Oregon, Stanford and Texas, followed by Oklahoma, Florida, Xavier and LSU.
Southwest Missouri State, Mississippi State, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and Virginia held the final five places. There were no newcomers.
Texas went from 25th to 16th for the biggest jump in the poll after beating Oregon, which was 10th at the time. Mississippi State's fall from 14th to 22nd was the biggest drop. The Lady Bulldogs lost to Louisiana Tech 83-65.
Notre Dame is coming off two impressive wins. The Irish opened Big East play with a 64-33 victory over Villanova, then beat Purdue 72-61 with some solid play down the stretch while point guard Niele Ivey was sidelined with leg cramps.
``I'm really pleased with the way we're playing,'' McGraw said. ``Their attitude and work ethic has been tremendous. They come in and work hard and try to get better. They don't look at the polls. They don't take people lightly.''
Led by Ivey and 6-foot-5 Ruth Riley, Notre Dame's first unit is a strong as any. Depth has been a question, but McGraw said that should improve when freshmen guards Jeneka Joyce and Le'Tania Severe return from stress fractures.
``This is our best guard group ever,'' McGraw said. ``I'm very confident in our guard play.''
The Notre Dame players are taking final exams this week and don't have a game until meeting Western Michigan next Monday. After facing Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and Purdue in a 19-day span, McGraw said it's a good time for a break.
``Every game, it seems, was a big game,'' she said. ``Every night we were playing somebody good. It's good to rest a little bit. Our starters have been playing a lot of minutes.''