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Oklahoma unbeaten in Big 12, moves into Top 25

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Even when Oklahoma was in the midst of a three-game skid in December, coach Sherri Coale had a feeling her team could be special.

''I knew we weren't that far away, we were losing games against quality people on the road,'' Coale said. ''It was a nightmarish road trip from the end of November and December. We weren't home for 30 days and playing really good teams.

''I told them after the Duke game that I thought we could win the league,'' she said. ''I saw a really high ceiling.''

So far Coale has been right. Oklahoma hasn't lost a Big 12 game yet this season and the Sooners entered the Top 25 for the first time since 2013 on Monday, coming into the poll at 24.

''We still have Baylor twice, Iowa State twice, a crazy week this week,'' she said.

Oklahoma visits No. 14 Texas on Thursday before traveling to West Virginia on Sunday.

What's made the Sooners (13-5, 7-0 Big 12) so dangerous this season is that they don't have that one star to stop. In the past with players like Stacey Dales or Courtney Paris or Danielle Robinson, Oklahoma had that All-American.

Now with a balanced team, Coale's squad is more difficult to guard. They have four players scoring in double figures.

''We do have a lot of balance, because we're so young, people are still finding themselves as basketball players,'' Coale said. ''Mixing all those roles together is challenging, yet it's great to have. There are a lot of different players who can score 18 or 20 on a given night.''

While Oklahoma has been a mainstay in the poll since Coale took over in 1996, Chattanooga has its first appearance in the Top 25 in 30 years this week.

The 25th-ranked Mocs entered the rankings on Monday making them the fourth team coach Jim Foster has led into the poll. He's the first coach in men's or women's basketball to ever achieve that.

''He's a tremendous basketball mind,'' Coale said. ''When you've done that at four different schools, it says you know what you're doing.''

Before Chattanooga entered the poll, Foster was one of nine coaches to lead three different teams to the Top 25, guiding Saint Joseph's, Vanderbilt and Ohio State to the rankings.

While the Mocs entered the poll for the first time since a four-week run in 1984, South Carolina stayed No. 1 for the 10th straight week. The Gamecocks routed No. 12 Texas A&M 79-61 on Monday night.

The Gamecocks were followed by Connecticut, Baylor, Notre Dame and Maryland. Tennessee, Oregon State, Louisville, Florida State and Kentucky round out the first 10. The Seminoles jumped eight spots this week after beating the Cardinals and Wake Forest.

Here are some other tidbits from this week's poll:

UNBEATENS: South Carolina and Princeton remain the two lone undefeated teams remaining. The Tigers have been off for exams since routing Penn on Jan. 10. They return to action against Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend. On the other end of the spectrum, Illinois State and UC Santa Barbara are still looking for their first victories.

UPCOMING MATCHUPS: No. 10 Kentucky has a busy week hosting sixth-ranked Tennessee on Thursday and No. 21 Georgia on Sunday. In the Big Ten, No. 20 Iowa has three huge games starting with a home matchup with No. 15 Nebraska on Monday night which the Hawkeyes won 78-72 in overtime. They visit Northwestern on Thursday and fifth-ranked Maryland on Sunday.


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