Kamie Ethridge was surprised to hear that Washington State had never been ranked before.
Now the Cougars coach can add that to the team’s list of accomplishments: They entered The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll at No. 25 on Monday.
“I honestly didn’t know we’d never been ranked,” Ethridge said. “I heard a lot about the lows we’ve experienced and talked to our team about the fact we have no banners. We have one NCAA Tournament appearance in the history of the NCAAs. A big part of our recruiting players was about hanging the first banner and being a first. How exciting it is to be on the way up.”
The ranking comes a day after Washington State beat then-No. 7 Arizona 71-69 in overtime on a buzzer-beating layup by freshman Charlisse Leger-Walker. Washington State (7-1) has won five of its first six Pac-12 games for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
“We’re enjoying the process right now,” said Ethridge, who took over the program in 2018. “The team has had a lot of firsts and this is another one of those. We’ll celebrate and acknowledge and enjoy the feeling.”
While Washington State was enjoying its first ranking, Stanford tightened its grip on the No. 1 spot in the poll. The Cardinal received 29 of the 30 first-place votes from a national media panel. They were followed by Louisville, North Carolina State, UConn and South Carolina. The Wolfpack received the other No. 1 vote.
Not much was expected from the Cougars this season, who were picked last in the Pac-12 preseason polls by the media and coaches.
“The team grabbed hold of being picked 12th and carried that with a big fat chip on their shoulder,” Ethridge said. “They don’t verbalize a lot. … They have a lot of pride about what they can do with this program.”
They’ve definitely opened some eyes with two victories over Top 25 teams after also beating Oregon State last month. It’s the first time since the 2014-15 season that they have two wins over ranked opponents. The lone loss came by four points to Oregon.
Ethridge hopes to guide the team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991.
The schedule doesn’t get easier for the Cougars, with four straight road games, starting with a trip to Los Angeles this weekend to face USC and No. 8 UCLA. The Cougars don’t return home until Jan. 27 when they have back-to-back games against No. 1 Stanford. The Cardinal continued their winning ways this week, beating then-No. 11 Oregon. The Ducks moved up one spot to 10th.
No. 6 Baylor, Texas A&M, UCLA and Maryland round out the other teams in the top 10.
Fresh off a victory over then-No. 13 Arkansas, Tennessee earned its first ranking of the season, coming in at No. 23. With their ranking, The Lady Volunteers continue their streak of being ranked at least one week every year in the poll.
Missouri State and Michigan State fell out of rankings.
Here are a few other tidbits form the poll:
JOINING THE REST OF THE PACK
Washington State was the final Power Five program to earn a ranking. Every other team in the Pac-12, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC has had at least one appearance in the Top 25.
HONORING HER DAD
West Virginia’s Kysre Gondrezick scored 14 of her 24 points in the first half to help her team rout No. 17 Texas 92-58 on Saturday night.
Gondrezick posted on her Twitter account on Friday that her father, 57-year-old Grant Gondrezick, had died. He played at Pepperdine in the mid-1980s and spent two seasons in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers. The Mountaineers earned votes this week in the poll and were sitting outside the Top 25.
GAME OF THE WEEK
N.C. State at Louisville, Sunday. The top spot in the ACC will be on the line as the Wolfpack visit the Cardinals in the lone regular-season meeting between the teams this season. Jeff Walz’s Louisville team is coming off a stretch of five games in 10 days. The Wolfpack had to postpone its two games last week because of contact tracing.