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Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota coach Pam Borton spent 10 years learning to coach women's college basketball by assisting Cathy Inglese.

So naturally, when Borton -- in her second season as Gophers head coach -- needs an ear, she dials her old boss at Boston College.

"Even today,'' Borton said, "when things aren't going well, I'll pick the phone up and she'll have words of encouragement or words of advice, or just someone who will listen to me at the time. And vice versa.''

If she wants to talk to Inglese this weekend, Borton can just walk over to the opposing bench.

Borton, who spent five years with Inglese at Boston College and another five on her staff at Vermont, will coach against her mentor Sunday when the Gophers play the No. 3 seed Golden Eagles (27-6) in a Mideast semifinal game in the NCAA Tournament. The seventh-seeded Gophers (23-8) are coming off an upset win over Kansas State.

It's the classic student-versus-teacher scenario. But Borton's trying to downplay that storyline -- at least to the media.

"I really haven't looked at it that way,'' Borton said. "I just don't want to play this up too much that we're playing Boston College. When that ball goes up, it doesn't really matter who's out there. We're going to fight like heck to win that basketball game no matter who it is.''

But when she addressed her players before Monday's 80-61 romp over the second-seeded Wildcats, Borton let on that it would be special to face her good friend and old mates.

"She was pretty excited,'' forward Shannon Bolden said. "She said she wanted to get to the Sweet 16 so we could play Boston College. I think that's really exciting for her.''

For Inglese, too.

"At the same time you're playing against somebody you've worked with who's a friend,'' Inglese said. "It's hard, but you can't pick who you're playing at this time.''

The two have quite a successful history together.

Borton began assisting Inglese at Vermont in 1988. The Catamounts went 20-33 in Borton's first two seasons with the team, but lost only nine games in the next three. As part of Inglese's staff, Borton helped coach the team to consecutive undefeated seasons in 1991-92 and 1992-93, including an NCAA-record 53 consecutive regular-season victories.

In the 1993-94 season, Inglese left for Boston College, and Borton took the helm at Vermont, guiding the Catamounts to their third-straight North Atlantic Conference title.

"Being able to take over, step into her shoes, I think she had a lot of confidence in me,'' Borton said.

After four years as Vermont's head coach, Borton went back to work for Inglese in 1997 to get more experience in a bigger program. By then, Inglese had restored a struggling Eagles program back to respectability.

Borton served as Inglese's primary recruiter and after a couple of seasons, Boston College was recording 22- and 26-win seasons and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

In 2000, Inglese promoted Borton to associate head coach, sending a message to all Division I programs that her protégé was ready for a big program of her own.

In 2002, Borton arrived in Minnesota to coach a team that had gone from one of the worst in college basketball to the NCAA Tournament in a single season.

Just two years removed from Boston College, Borton will not only coach against her friend and mentor, but against players she helped recruit.

"I still feel a little bit of connection with the players,'' she said. "Every time they're on TV, I want to flip it on to see how they play. Sometimes I'll still pull up box scores.''

But Borton's quick to point out that her loyalty is with the Gophers now.

"This is my team,'' she said.

Likewise, Boston College hopes Borton and her Gophers do well, just not at the Eagles' expense.

"It is a little ironic that we play them in the round of 16,'' Eagles senior Amber Jacobs said. "But we're there to show the world, show the nation, what Boston College basketball is all about.''

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