Pupil Faces Teacher in Iowa-Missouri Matchup

March 23, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Lisa Bluder, Iowa Player Interviews

Missouri Interviews

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Lisa Bluder pondered the question for a few seconds. Iowa’s coach scanned the Iowa locker room for her answer Saturday afternoon here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

She chose Tania Davis, Kathleen Doyle and Kate Martin. The dean of Big Ten bench bosses believed this trio of her players could some day end up coaching.

Bluder knows what it takes. She’s watching some of her former athletes coach, including her current assistants, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, Abby Stamp and Kathryn Reynolds. She’ll see one on the opposite bench Sunday afternoon.

Robin (Becker) Pingeton leads seventh-seeded Missouri against the No. 2 Hawkeyes (1 p.m., ESPN2) after the teams advanced with close victories in Friday’s first round of the NCAA Tournament here. The Tigers are alive after defeating Drake, coached by former Iowa player and Bluder pupil, Jennie (Lillis) Baranczyk, in overtime.

Pingeton played for Bluder at St. Ambrose (1987-90), still standing as the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,502 points). Her sister, Lisa (Becker) Porter, played at Iowa for Vivian Stringer after prepping at Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Their father, Arlo Becker, was a well-known race car driver from Eastern Iowa.

“I will say that I think she coaches the same way she plays,” Bluder said of Pingeton. “She was tenacious. I mean, she was an undersized 4 that was just really, really good in the post area. I mean, she had terrific post moves, and you see her niece doing the same thing and just really see teaches post play so well. But I’m really impressed with their defense. I think she’s done a really, really good job defensively with this team.”

Pingeton’s niece, Cierra Porter, is a senior for the Tigers. She is the daughter of Lisa (Becker) Porter and the granddaughter of Arlo Becker. Her brother, Michael Porter Jr., is a rookie with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. Another brother, Jontay Porter, plays at Missouri.

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“Lisa (Bluder) obviously has been a great mentor and a friend to me. But honestly the focus, I think, is just preparing for our team to play their team. You don’t really think too much about the friendship, the relationship. At least I don’t because your focus is on your next opponent,” Pingeton said Saturday.

Bluder agreed. She also downplayed the dynamic for Sunday’s game, saying it’d been 30 years since the two women were together.

With only one day to prepare, the teams are cramming in film sessions and scouting reports. There’s a mutual respect between the programs.

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Each team features a star player. For Iowa, Megan Gustafson is a Naismith player of the year finalist. She’s averaging 28.1 points and 13.3 rebounds after a 30-and-16 performance in Round 1.

“She’s a great player. Great player, and she’s a lot of their offense and we’re going to have to shut her down, but I know our team is prepared. We’re ready to go, and I think from top to bottom we know what we have to get done,” Missouri senior Sophie Cunningham said.

Cunningham paces the Tigers in points (18.1 PPG) and assists (2.8 APG), and ranks second in rebounds (6.0 RPG). At 6-1, she’s a lengthy perimeter player and a tough matchup for Iowa’s smaller backcourt.

“I feel like she’s not a one-player defensive assignment. You need help on her,” Hawkeye guard Tania Davis said. “You’re definitely not going to shut her down just with one person. We emphasized that (Saturday) in practice, respecting her and her teammates as well.”

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Junior guard Amber Smith takes pressure off Cunningham. She’s averaging 12.2 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds.

Sunday’s game will feature teams with contrasting styles. Iowa likes to score, averaging 79.8 points per game, which ranks 13th in the country. Missouri prides itself on defense, allowing 58.5 points (40th nationally) and 36.6 percent shooting from the floor (30th).

The Hawkeyes will be looking to take better care of the basketball after turning it over 24 times on Friday.

“I think a lot of the first-game jitters are out,” Iowa senior Hannah Stewart said. “Last year we lost in the first round and we didn’t want that to happen again. I think that was in the back of our minds (Friday).

“Hopefully we’ll have a much better game as far as turnovers, and slow down and relax a little bit, and know that we’re the better team. We’ve just got to play our game.”

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