South Carolina returns to top of women’s basketball poll

South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley confers with forward Aliyah Boston on the sideline during the second half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. South Carolina won 75-52. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Coach Dawn Staley has South Carolina back where her team started the season: No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll.

The Gamecocks regained the top spot on Monday, receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes from a national media panel.

The Gamecocks will be tested right away; they visit No. 2 UConn on Monday night in the 60th matchup ever between the top two teams in the poll.

South Carolina, which originally fell from the top spot after losing to North Carolina State, looks to make it two straight wins over UConn after beating the Huskies for the first time in eight tries last season, 70-52.

“It is less pressure but more hunger,” Staley said Saturday. “To beat somebody at home is a little easier than beating them on the road. And I just hope we’re able to check that off the list and continue what UConn used to do to us: Link those wins together and don’t look back.”

These same two teams met five years ago to the day in another 1-2 contest. The positions were reversed and the Huskies stayed the No. 1 team with a 12-point win.

UConn moved up one spot to No. 2 on Monday after then-No. 1 Louisville lost at home to No. 4 North Carolina State last Monday. The Cardinals fell to third and the Wolfpack remained fourth. They lost to unranked North Carolina on Sunday.

No 5. Stanford, Texas A&M and Baylor each moved up a spot, while UCLA, Maryland and Arizona rounded out the top 10. Arizona visits No. 11 Oregon on Monday night.

Here are other tidbits from the poll:

MILESTONE

Monday marked the 800th women’s college basketball poll in the AP’s history. No team has been in it more than Tennessee, with 745 appearances. The late Pat Summitt had 618 of those when she was in charge of the Lady Vols. The team was unranked only 14 weeks while she was coaching. UConn is second on the list with 554, all under Geno Auriemma.

According to poll historian Mel Greenberg, who started the poll in 1976, Kim Mulkey is the active leader with 663 poll appearances from her time as a player at Louisiana Tech, an assistant coach there and head coach of Baylor. Mulkey trails only former Tennessee player and coach Holly Warlick for most all-time. Warlick had 693 appearances in the poll.

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