Coach Robin Pingeton has the Missouri Tigers headed in the right direction.
Off to the best start in school history at 11-0, Pingeton has guided Missouri to its first ranking in nearly a decade: The Tigers entered The Associated Press women's basketball poll at No. 25 on Monday, their first appearance since Jan. 9, 2006.
''I think it's important you celebrate the mini victories,'' she said. ''It's all part of the process. We worked really hard I think over last several years, to have a chance to make history this year. Going (11-0) in the non-con, that was one of the milestones we celebrated. We weren't satisfied. It's about big picture, not one week, not 10 weeks, we know what it looks like.''
The Tigers, who hosted Texas State on Monday night, entered the week as one of nine unbeaten teams left in Division I basketball. Three of them are in the SEC, including No. 2 South Carolina and seventh-ranked Kentucky.
The Gamecocks remained second in the poll behind unanimous top choice UConn. The Huskies were hosting LSU on Monday night after taking a week off for exams. Notre Dame, Baylor, Texas and Maryland followed the Gamecocks.
Missouri has one more non-conference game after Monday before opening up SEC play against No. 14 Tennessee on Jan. 4.
''I don't know if there's anything you can do to simulate what that grind is like in January and February with the road swings and travel and the caliber of athletes you'll see night in and night out,'' Pingeton said of the SEC schedule.
Missouri, which has surpassed the 1982-83 team that won its first nine games, became the sixth SEC school to join the Top 25 this week.
''We know where we want to be selection show Monday,'' Pingeton said. ''It's a pretty mature group that can handle it and will handle it. We're really excited but long way from being satisfied.''
Other tidbits from the Top 25:
PLAYING WITH URGENCY: Tennessee coach Holly Warlick hopes that her team has found itself. The No. 14 Lady Vols went 2-1 on its recent trip that took it to Wichita State, Stanford and Oregon State.
After a lackluster win over Wichita State, Tennessee was routed by Stanford. Warlick said after that game, the team's third loss in five games, that they needed to play harder.
Tennessee responded with a 53-50 victory over then-No. 7 Oregon State on Saturday night. It was the Lady Vols' highest-ranked win on the road since beating then-No. 7 LSU in 2007.
''I think we came in here with something to prove, but more than that, our goal was to play hard. We hadn't done that,'' Warlick said.
Tennessee returns home to play Stetson on Dec. 30 before opening up SEC play at Missouri.
GIVE A LITTLE, TAKE A LITTLE: DePaul finished off its four-game road trip with a loss to South Dakota State before beating Chicago rival Northwestern.
The Blue Demons alternated wins and losses on the swing, losing a tight one to Notre Dame before beating Texas A&M. With the wins over the Aggies and the Wildcats, DePaul has two Top 25 wins for the first time since 2011-12. Three of their four losses this season have come against UConn, Notre Dame and Baylor.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS: It's a light week on the schedule with no Top 25 team playing Wednesday through Saturday. There are 11 games Monday and five games Tuesday. Fifth-ranked Texas is the only team playing after Tuesday as they host Sam Houston State on Sunday.
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