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UConn new No. 1 in AP women’s basketball poll, passing Irish

Connecticut's Kia Nurse reacts in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Uncasville, Conn. (Jessica Hill / Associated Press)
Connecticut's Kia Nurse reacts in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Uncasville, Conn. (Jessica Hill / Associated Press)
By Doug Feinberg Associated Press

NEW YORK – UConn is back in a familiar spot, No. 1 in the poll.

The Huskies passed Notre Dame for the top position in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll Monday, barely edging the Irish by two points. The rivals will face each other on Wednesday in South Bend, Indiana.

Both teams are undefeated and the Huskies are coming off a week where they beat Top 25 teams DePaul and Texas. UConn has four victories over Top 25 opponents while Notre Dame has one.

The Huskies (7-0) had been second in the poll behind the Irish (8-0) for the first few weeks of the season. UConn garnered 18 first place votes from the 33-member national media panel while the Irish received the other 15. The Huskies’ ascension to No. 1 was bolstered with then-No. 3 South Carolina losing to Duke on Sunday.

It’s the first time since 2005 that a team lost its No. 1 ranking without losing a game. That year, second-ranked Tennessee passed Duke after Thanksgiving when the Lady Vols beat Michigan State and Maryland, who were in the top 10 at a Thanksgiving tournament.

The Gamecocks fell to sixth with Baylor, Maryland and Mississippi State all moving up a spot.

Duke came in at No. 21 with South Florida a spot behind them. Virginia Tech entered at No. 25, the Hokies’ first ranking since 2006.

“I am very happy for this team and every accomplishment that they have had in such a short amount of time,” Virginia Tech first-year coach Kenny Brooks said. “To achieve a national ranking is a testament to the hard work and receptiveness to a change in philosophy without hesitation.”

Tennessee, Auburn and Texas A&M fell out. The Lady Vols saw a 31-year run in the Top 25 end last season. They were ranked for 565 consecutive weeks before that streak ended on Feb. 22. Tennessee (4-3) matched the worst home loss in school history when the Lady Vols lost to Baylor by 22 points on Sunday.

“Right now, we’re not talented,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “Playing with a lot of heart? Right now, we’re not playing with a lot of heart. We’re getting out-worked, we’re getting out-muscled and it’s up to me to try to do something about it. I’m going to continue to work. I’m not going to give up on this team, I love this team.”

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