- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

Jonathan Tsipis knew one of his main goals in taking over George Washington was returning the Colonials to a women’s basketball power.

He has the team headed in the right direction, as George Washington earned its first Top 25 ranking in nearly seven years when the school entered The Associated Press poll at No. 24 on Monday.

“I think when you’re getting ranked in February, it’s a big body of work that people are looking at, as opposed to earlier in the year, when it’s a projection of how you should do,” he said. “We’re really excited.”

Tsipis has the Colonials (19-2) riding a 17-game winning streak, the third best in school history. They are five victories short of the mark set by the 1996-97 squad that won 22 straight. That streak is only part of the rich history of women’s basketball at the school, which appeared almost weekly in the poll for nearly two decades starting in 1991 under former coach Joe McKeown.

“This puts together what we’ve talked about with the tradition we’ve had here, the number of A-10 championships and NCAA tournament appearances and wins in the NCAA tournament,” Tsipis said. “It goes hand in hand with being ranked.”

The Colonials, who last were ranked in the final poll of the 2008 season, hit a skid from 2009-13 when they had four straight years under .500 - the school’s first since 1988-89. But Tsipis has started to return the team to its previous glory. The only losses this season came to Florida Gulf Coast, when leading scorer and rebounder Jonquel Jones was out, and to No. 5 Maryland.

“We were winning at halftime and they surged in the second half,” Tsipis said of the loss to the Terrapins. “There was such a difference in the two games. The game here and the game on the road last year, that’s part of the belief.”

George Washington lost at Maryland by 36 points last season. That defeat came one game after the Colonials pulled off one of the biggest victories under Tsipis when they beat then-No. 10 California.

“You have to believe you’ll win every game, and we felt like we showed we could on any given night play with someone who was highly ranked,” he said. “Not just get to NIT, but get to multiple rounds in. Those are building blocks that we have.”

While George Washington moved into the poll, there wasn’t much change up top. South Carolina was No. 1 for the 11th straight week. The Gamecocks cruised to three victories this past week, winning by an average of nearly 22 points.

UConn, Baylor, Notre Dame and Maryland followed the Gamecocks. Tennessee, Oregon State, Louisville, Florida State and Arizona State round out the first 10.

Some notes from this week’s poll:

UNBEATENS: South Carolina and Princeton remain the lone unbeatens in women’s basketball. The Tigers returned from a three-week break for exams to beat Harvard by 50 points and Dartmouth by 18 this past weekend. Princeton hosts Cornell and Columbia this week.

On the other end of the spectrum, UC Santa Barbara is the lone winless team left after Illinois State beat Loyola-Chicago. The Gauchos visit Hawaii on Friday night.

FALLING LONGHORNS: It’s been a rough few weeks for Texas. After starting the season 13-0, the Longhorns have lost five of their last seven games and dropped from third in the poll to 20th. It’s no coincidence that some of that has come after Texas lost senior Nneka Enemkpali to a torn ACL in her left knee.

899 AND COUNTING: UConn coach Geno Auriemma can become the sixth coach to reach 900 victories Tuesday when his Huskies host Cincinnati. Connecticut has won every league game since the American Athletic Conference was formed last season. Auriemma would be the fastest coach to reach the milestone, joining Pat Summitt, Sylvia Hatchell, C. Vivian Stringer and Jody Conradt.

UPCOMING MATCHUPS: Before the big showdown next Monday between South Carolina and UConn, the Gamecocks need to play at No. 22 Georgia on Thursday. A key matchup out west features No. 12 Stanford visiting 10th-ranked Arizona State on Friday. The Sun Devils won on the Farm for the first time since 1984 earlier this season. Nebraska has a busy week, visiting No. 21 Rutgers on Thursday before facing No. 5 Maryland on Sunday, which is unbeaten in conference play in its first season in the Big Ten.


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