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February 25, 2010When any of Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler's players don't live up to expectations on the court, he certainly doesn't hesitate to sit them down and make sure they realize their mistakes.
The same goes for off of the court.
Less than 24 hours before the Huskers hit the road to Ames, Iowa, to take on Iowa State Wednesday night, Sadler announced that redshirt freshman guard Eshaunte Jones and junior forward Quincy Hankins-Cole would not make the trip because they failed to live up to the team's academic standards.
On Thursday, Sadler said the punishments were only a one-game matter, assuming both players stay on course academically the rest of the school year and beyond. Both are still practicing with the team, and both will be eligible to play in Saturday's home game against Texas Tech if Sadler chooses to play them.
"If they're here and they practice hard, then they'll play Saturday as long as they've done what I've asked them to do," Sadler said. "As long as they take care of what they're supposed to take care of, they're no different than anybody else out here. If they do, then they'll be out here and they'll play if I think they deserve to play."
How much Jones and Hankins-Cole's absence impacted Nebraska in its 78-74 loss to the Cyclones is debatable, but there's no question that both players have had roles in at least some of NU's success this season.
Jones is averaging 17.4 minutes per game, and his 45.2 3-point shooting percentage is on pace to break the single-season school record. Hankins-Cole, a junior college transfer this year from Polk (Fla.) Community College, took awhile to adjust to the Division I game but has slowly found a niche as a viable post presence off the bench for the Huskers.
Sadler said he had no way of knowing how either player would respond to the message he sent in Wednesday night's one-game suspensions, saying it would be up to Jones and Hankins-Cole to make the commitment to meet the team's academic standards for as long as they wear a Nebraska jersey.
"I have no idea (how they'll respond)," Sadler said. "I can't imagine them not (responding well). But I don't concern myself with that. We've got standards in this program, and they know what they are and everybody else knows what they are."
Standhardinger catching up after lost time
Nebraska's season may be only a handful of games away from being over, but for freshman forward Christian Standhardinger, things are just starting to get warmed up.
After missing the entire non-conference schedule because of an NCAA ruling, the Munich, Germany, native has only been eligible to play in the Huskers 13 Big 12 Conference games.
Of those 13 games, he's only actually played in 12, averaging just 15 minutes of playing time and with one start, which came Wednesday night.
Despite his extremely limited experience, Standhardinger shined like an all-conference veteran in his starting debut. With 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists, the 6-foot-8, 210-pounder played a huge role in keeping the Huskers at least in position to win just their second league game.
Though he looked like an emerging star against the Cyclones, Sadler said Standhardinger still had a long way to go before becoming a finished product. In particular, Sadler said Standhardinger is still transitioning between the European and American styles of basketball.
"I think he's getting better at it, but I think there's still some things that he can obviously get better at," Sadler said. "You're not going to take the basketball 22 feet from the basket and get to the basket (like he did in Europe). That's his comfort level, and when pressure gets on him that's what he wants to do, and he's not able to do that now.
"European basketball is a much more skilled league. The skill level is much higher than it is at our level. But the athleticism (here), there's no comparison. That's what (European players) struggle with here, the speed of the game, the athleticism, the size and things like that."
Standhardinger's teammates certainly had no qualms with his addition to the starting lineup, as his offensive production seemed to spark the rest of the Huskers to follow his lead en route to a 74-point performance.
"He gave us the lead, basically," junior point guard Lance Jeter said. "That's the thing with Christian - he's so versatile. If big men guard him, he's too fast for them. If a little guy guards him, he's going to the post. He has an advantage on guards and big men. Him being out there and scoring like we know he can really helped us out."
Either way, the performance was definitely encouraging for a team in desperate need of some positives amid a 1-12 start to conference play.
Whether or not Standhardinger is on his way to living up to the probably overblown hype he received coming into the season obviously remains to be seen, but if nothing else, Standhardinger at least showed he's capable of being that kind of player.
"I don't know, I think all that's speculation," Sadler said. "I don't think you can speculate on that kind of stuff. I mean, it is what it is. Obviously I think he shot the ball really well last night, and he obviously gave us some offense that we needed. For the most part, I thought he did some other things well too besides just score points. I thought he rebounded well and I thought he defended pretty good."
Jeter's 21 points only a result of circumstances
With a career-high 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including four 3-pointers, Jeter was another Husker who broke out offensively against Iowa State.
However, don't expect that kind of production to become a regular occurrence.
Sadler said Jeter's scoring explosion was merely a result of the Cyclones not giving him any respect as a perimeter shooter, and him simply making them pay for it. Coming into the game, he was only averaging 6.9 points per game and had not scored more than 17 points on the year.
"They weren't guarding him, and he just took what was there," Sadler said. "I think it was more of a situational thing than anything. They didn't guard him. They backed off of him, and he hit some shots. I don't imagine anyone else is going to do that."