The Sideline View: What happens when Hansen comes back?

Taylor O'Neil Hall, Sports Editor

Nate Hansen is two-thirds of the way through his three-game suspension for a “violation of team rules,” and the team felt that during the regular season opener Friday night against Augustana University (2-0).

In front of a subpar crowd (826 people) for the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at the Ford Center (which seats at max capacity 10,000), USI (1-1) dropped its season opener 77-73.

It was Hansen’s first of the three-game suspension, and if he had played, chances are a guy, who in the two exhibition games he’s played in, has scored an average of 8 points combined, could have given the Screaming Eagles at least five points.

That’s a three-pointer, which Hansen shot 80 percent (4-of-5) from beyond the arc Monday night against Eastern Illinois (it was an exhibition, so he was able to play), and a put-back, a mid-range jumper or a trip to the line and USI wins the opener avoiding its first season-opening loss since 1985 in double-overtime to Wright State.

But Hansen was out and USI lost. As a whole, the team shot 24 percent from deep, which is somewhat of an area of expertise for Hansen.

Now, the team didn’t exactly need Hansen in game two of the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic against No. 24 Kentucky Wesleyan, though that could be because of the contrasting styles of play from Augustana and KWC.

USI beat KWC easily 88-75, in a game in which it never trailed, compared to the Augustana game that featured seven lead changes and a 12 point deficit midway through the first half USI had to overcome.

“When you compare teams and games, it’s different personals, it’s different styles of play,” USI men’s coach Rodney Watson said. “It appears our team fits (KWC’s) style of play more than a grind out style (Augustana).”

Which is one of the reasons USI utilized a 2-3 zone defense during the last 10 minutes of the KWC game because it worked well.

As Watson pointed out, the next regular season game for USI is against another team that employs a slow, grind-it-out style and again, the team will be without Hansen which shortens the bench and gives USI one less option from deep.

Friday against Hillsdale College (0-0) in the GLVC/GMAC Crossover Hansen will serve the last game of his suspension, but the Reitz product will be back on the court Saturday against Malone University (0-0).

Hansen is definitely coming back, so the question is, who gets fewer minutes with Hansen back?

The answer is probably the two starting guards. In the loss to Augustana, Alex Stein and Marcellous Washington each played 38 minutes.

And though Stein was a respectable 2-of-5 from the three-point line and 10-of-19 overall, Washington was 3-of-9 and 6-of-17 total from the floor.

Or, the team could use Hansen at the three instead and operate with three forwards on the floor and two guards at once. After all, Hansen is listed as a “guard/forward” on the team’s bio page.

But one of the reasons the team will probably slot him at guard is because the frontcourt is already loaded with Jacob Norman, Julius Rajala, DayJar Dickson and freshmen Emmanuel Little, who in his short career is playing extremely well.

Something is for sure though, no matter where Hansen ends up, he’ll help the team one way or another.

“(Hansen) gives us depth,” Watson said. “He’s an offensive weapon and a guy who’s really trying to work hard to learn how we’re guarding defensively. We’ll welcome him back, that’s for sure when that time comes.”