Indiana Daily Student

Familiar faces square off in conference showdown

Lisa Bluder and Kathi Bennett have seen a lot of each other during the past 12 years. For Bluder, it's usually a pleasant get-together. For Bennett, it's been a nightmare.\nJust ask them:\n"It's fun," said Bluder in her first year as Iowa's coach.\nBennett: "I'm not looking forward to going against Coach Bluder," she said.\nBluder's smile and Bennett's moan are for the same reason -- when the two meet, Bluder wins.\nBut Bennett said she hopes that with new schools come new traditions, as the Hoosiers roll into Iowa City for an important Big Ten game with Iowa at 2 p.m. CST Sunday.\n"She's always had my number," Bennett said. "I finally got one win against her last year, but she's one heck of a coach."\nBack then, Bennett and Bluder were leading two schools in the Missouri Valley Conference. Bluder was in Iowa, coaching Drake University, where she amassed virtually every school record for coaching, including three-time MVC Coach of the Year honors. She led Drake to five 20-plus win seasons in the last six years, including five postseason appearances. \nBennett was in Indiana, at MVC rival Evansville. She sat mostly in Bluder's shadow, with just one MVC coaching honor on her resume. And Jan. 22, 1998 at Evansville, and in front of Bennett, Bluder notched her 300th career win, tying to be the fifth youngest coach to reach the 300-victory mark.\nNow, Bennett will face Bluder again, in different colors, and with a team that's playing good basketball. Iowa (10-8, 5-3 Big Ten) has won four out of its last five games, including home victories against Penn State and Wisconsin, both ranked in the nation's Top 25.\nBennett is worried for more reasons than the bad luck against the opposing coach.\n"Confidence comes and goes," she said. "Iowa is playing very, very well. I'm so impressed with how hard they play. They all have range and they all are a threat."\nThe biggest threat is the two all-Big Ten guards IU (14-6, 5-4 Big Ten) will face in Lindsey Meder and Cara Consuegra. Before the Hawkeyes' Thursday night game with Michigan State, the two combined for nearly 30 points a game. Meder is in the hunt for the Big Ten scoring title pulling in nearly 18 points per contest.\nBut the Hoosiers will also face an interesting match-up inside, as Iowa center Randi Peterson has blossomed in the Big Ten season and is averaging 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Peterson will be an interesting match for junior forward Jill Chapman, who will have to extend her post defense. Peterson is deadly from outside the block, Bennett said, and will force Chapman into playing farther from the basket.\n"The big thing for Jill is going to be if she can handle guarding Peterson 15, 16 feet from the basket," Bennett said. "We're lucky we've had the extra time to prepare for it (the Hoosiers have Thursday off), because we need it."\nBennett said she thinks the game, between two similarly styled teams fighting for position in the conference, will hinge on who uses their strengths better.\n"We have some advantages and they have some advantages," Bennett said. "I know this sounds dumb, but who wins is going to be who can take advantage of the advantages."\nBut certainly not for the first time this season, the focus is on Bennett. This time it's not because of her father, Dick Bennett, but because of the person across the court.\nThe two matched wits in their first years as coaches with small, NAIA programs. Now, Bennett and Bluder will square off in a 19,000-seat arena vying for fourth place in basketball's biggest conference.\n"It's really odd to go against Kathi Bennett," Bluder said. "Our careers have really paralleled each other. It's gone back 12 years now. \n"It's certainly unusual, but it's fun"

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