Nov. 5, 2001

NORMAN, Okla. - After ranking from No. 1 to No. 6 in numerous preseason publications, the Oklahoma women's basketball team appears at No. 5 in the inaugural ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, which was released Monday. The Big 12 Conference has five teams ranked among the top 25, the most of any league, while the Southeastern Conference has four teams among the elite.

Claiming the No. 1 preseason slot is Connecticut, who collected 25 first-place votes. The Huskies, 32-3 last year, finished with 972 points, followed by Tennessee at No. 2 with 937 points. Holding down the No. 3 and No. 4 spots are SEC foe Vanderbilt (837 points) and Duke (804 points), who represents the Athletic Coast Conference. The Sooners received one first place vote to finish with 798 points.

Other Big 12 schools ranked among the top 25 is Texas Tech at No. 7, Iowa State is ranked No. 8, Colorado is No. 13 and Baylor at No. 16.

OU Head Coach Sherri Coale led the Sooners to a school-best 28-6 overall record and first-place 15-1 Big 12 Conference mark in 2001. OU repeated its NCAA Sweet 16 appearance for second year and closed out the campaign ranked seventh in the country. Oklahoma returns 11 letterwinners and welcomes four freshmen and one transfer to this year's team.

Oklahoma has already played one exhibition game, defeating Oklahoma Christian 90-62, and will host Southwestern Oklahoma State on Tuesday, Nov. 6, before opening off its season on ESPN2 at the State Farm Tip-Off Classic in Durham, N.C. on Sunday, Nov. 11. Four of the top-10 teams in the nation, #3 Duke (30-4), #5 Oklahoma (28-6), #7 Texas Tech (25-7) and #9 Purdue (31-7), will be participating in this year's prestigious event. Each are coming off of NCAA Sweet 16 appearances and returns a wealth of experience from last year's teams. Host Duke will play Texas Tech at 1 p.m. followed by OU-Purdue at 3:30 p.m. EST inside Cameron Indoor Arena.

"I like it," said Coale. "I like the company we're in. It shows that our program has the respect of our peers. I'm very honored and appreciative that other coaches feel that Oklahoma is a top five program. Now it's our job to prove it every night and every day on the floor."

This poll is also a tremendous reflection of the quality of our conference. To have three teams in the top-five and five in the top-20 in the country means that January and Feburary could be brutal."

This season will be no different than any others in that our players have to continue to get better every day and that will be our focus throughout this season."