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College women's basketball: Gophers get the Irish

MINNEAPOLIS - As each bubble team came off the board on Monday night, another bead of sweat gathered on Minnesota coach Pam Borton's forehead. Virginia Commonwealth, TCU, Mississippi State, San Diego State, Georgia. Borton and her Gophers watched...

MINNEAPOLIS - As each bubble team came off the board on Monday night, another bead of sweat gathered on Minnesota coach Pam Borton's forehead.

Virginia Commonwealth, TCU, Mississippi State, San Diego State, Georgia. Borton and her Gophers watched them all get seeded in the NCAA tournament; and hope steadily gave way to dread that they would be on the outside looking in.

"I think everybody in the room was sweating, I won't lie to you," Borton said. "Every 10 seed that was put up there was a team on the bubble."

Then, at the last possible pairing for Minnesota, ESPN announced that the Gophers (19-11) earned a 10th seed and will play at seventh-seeded Notre Dame on Sunday in the Trenton Regional.

"When I saw Georgia pop up at the end there as an

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11-seed, I was like, 'Oh my. This is not good,"' Borton said. "There were so many teams that were bubble teams that had already been put up there. ... I just really felt like we've had such a great season. We've had some quality wins and we're definitely one of the top seeds and deserve to be in the NCAA tournament."

The Gophers were sitting on that bubble thanks to a late-season swoon in which they lost four of their last five games, including at Northwestern and home against Illinois.

"I believe we deserved to get in because we've had a good season, despite the end," senior guard Emily Fox. "But it was nerve-racking, especially being the second-to-last group to come up (on the screen)."

Minnesota will play the Fighting Irish on Notre Dame's home floor in South Bend, Ind., in the first round of the Trenton Regional. It's the same floor where the Gophers made their first ever NCAA appearance, as 10th seed against the Irish in 1994. Minnesota won that game 81-76.

It's the Gophers' sixth NCAA tournament bid in seven seasons under Borton, and their second in a row. They lost to Texas in the first round last season.

"We've come to understand that getting to the NCAA tournament is a tradition here," forward Ashley Ellis-Milan said.

"It feels like a new life," Fox said. "I feel like we've gotten so much better in this last week of practice and we are a different team than the one that ended the season. This is a second chance for us and it's really exciting."

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