Arkansas Cracks Top 25

FAYETTEVILLE — The years of hard work may finally be paying off for Susie Gardner and her Arkansas women's basketball team.

Thanks to a 9-1 start to the season — including road wins at Clemson, Austin Peay and Hawaii — the Lady'Backs have returned to the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in Gardner's four years at the helm. Arkansas enters the latest AP poll at No. 25. "I think our staff is very excited and we'll be very excited to tell our team," Gardner said. "It's a sign of what they've been able to accomplish. "The new challenge now is to be able to deal with being ranked, but I'm excited. It's a good step for our program." The Lady'Backs haven't made an appearance in the AP poll since the 2002-03 season, when Arkansas finished 24th in the final AP poll. That Lady'Backs team was coached by Gary Blair. Since Gardner took over, though, Arkansas hasn't come close to being ranked. Until now. "I don't think it will change our approach," Gardner said. "But now pride comes into play. You want to prove that you belong there." Arkansas was off all of last week for finals. But after nearly missing out on being ranked in the previous poll, Gardner had a feeling the ranking was just around the corner. "My staff looks at that stuff more than I do, but I felt like we were getting the votes," Gardner said. "You don't know how they're going to vote since we didn't play last week. "But now that we're in, the big thing is to keep winning." The USA Today poll will be released today, although Arkansas doesn't figure to make the top 25 in the coaches' ranking. The Lady'Backs received just 10 points and were 10 spots away from No. 25 in last week's USA today poll.

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