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Gopher women crack AP Top 25 poll for first time since 2006

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For the first time since 2006 the Golden Gophers women's basketball team is in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Minnesota's 14-1 overall record and undefeated start in conference play vaulted them to the No. 23 ranking in Monday's new poll.

Minnesota's 10-game winning streak was highlighted with three wins against Big Ten competition last week. They upset then No. 12 Nebraska before picking up wins over Purdue and Wisconsin. And they've been winning without leading scorer and floor general Rachel Banham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in a non-conference game at North Dakota on Dec. 10.

Banham was the Big Ten's Preseason Player of the Year and a National Player of the Year candidate.

“I am thrilled for our team and program to be recognized by the national media with a return to the top-25,” head coach Marlene Stollings said in a statement, via the Gophers. “Our young ladies have faced adversity head on with the loss of Rachel Banham, and have flourished. We teach our young ladies that basketball is a microcosm of life, and you have a choice when faced with difficult situations - you can step up and fight or you can be deflated and defeated. This team has shown resiliency, grit, toughness and character in light of difficulty and I couldn’t be more proud of them at this point in our season.”

Without Banham, Minnesota has relied on 6-foot-5 sophomore center Amanda Zahui B., who on Monday was named ESPN Women's player of the week. She's averaging 15.9 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game this season.

According the the Pioneer Press, the Gophers finished the 2005-06 ranked 25th in the AP poll. The last time they were ranked in another poll was in 2008-09, when they spent a brief period at No. 25 in the ESPN/Coaches poll.

Minnesota's 14-1 record is the best start in program history since Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville helped the 2003-04 Gophers start 15-0 on their way to a trip to the Final Four.

Iowa (No. 12), Nebraska (No. 19) and Rutgers (No. 24) are the only other Big Ten schools ranked in the AP Top 25.

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