Gamecocks fall to No. 2 in new poll

Dawn Staley's South Carolina women's basketball team fell to No. 2 behind Connecticut in the new AP Top 25 released Monday. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

COLUMBIA — For the first time in more than a dozen weeks, South Carolina is looking up at another program in the AP Top 25.

And no surprise what program that is.

Defending national champion Connecticut, which a week ago handed the USC women’s basketball team its lone loss of the season to this point, returned to the top spot in the new rankings released Monday. The Huskies were a unanimous No. 1, receiving all 35 first-place votes, while South Carolina slipped to No. 2.

Baylor, Notre Dame and Maryland rounded out the top five.

The Gamecocks (24-1) opened the season at No. 2, and ascended to the top ranking after Connecticut lost in overtime at Stanford on Nov. 17. South Carolina moved up to No. 1 the following week, and held that spot until Monday. The Gamecocks dropped in the poll because of their 87-62 loss to the Huskies in Storrs, Conn., last week.

USC rebounded with convincing victories over SEC foes LSU and Vanderbilt this past week.

That top ranking would seem unlikely to change again during the regular season, which Connecticut (24-1) finishes with a slate of American Athletic Conference games. Although the Huskies close the season against a South Florida team ranked in last week’s poll, Connecticut has never lost an AAC game, beating league foes by an average of 50 points. The AAC tournament is also in Connecticut.

South Carolina, meanwhile, closes with a rugged stretch that includes three straight games against ranked SEC teams. After playing at Arkansas on Thursday, USC hosts No. 6 Tennessee and No. 14 Mississippi State before finishing the regular season at No. 11 Kentucky. The SEC women’s tournament is in North Little Rock, Ark.