Hankerson

NIU guard Trendon Hankerson brings the ball up the court during NIU's game against Longwood University  Nov. 18, 2019.

DeKALB — Sophomore guard Trendon Hankerson has played in 34 career games for the men’s basketball team, and with 2 ½ seasons of eligibility left, will play in plenty more before his Huskie career is over.

None will compare to Saturday’s game with University of Wisconsin—Green Bay, as Hankerson lined up across from his brother, Kameron, a senior guard for the Phoenix. 

Taking the court together for the first time since their high school careers at Novi High School in Michigan, Trendon played one of the best games of his career, but Kameron came away with bragging rights for Christmas dinner, as the Phoenix withstood a late Huskie rally to squeak out an 85-84 win.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play against Kameron,” Trendon said. “We won’t get this chance again unless we both play professional basketball, which I hope we do. It’s a huge event and I would’ve liked to have come out with the ‘W’ but it was a huge game regardless for me. It was cool to be able to compete against him.”

The Hankerson’s friends and family were easily identifiable thanks to custom t-shirts made for the occasion, and Trendon quickly gave them something to cheer about, hitting two 3-pointers and rolling in another basket to put a quick eight points on the board and give the Huskies an early 18-10 lead.

Trendon helped the Huskies rally back from an 11-point deficit in the second half, which included hitting a jump shot with 52 seconds remaining the Huskies within one at 85-84. 

Trendon finished the game with a career-high 18 points while dishing out five assists and grabbing three steals. Kameron, who came in averaging a career-best 11.4 points per game, scored five points and had five assists.

“It was a unique opportunity to see two student-athletes who go to different schools to get to play against each other,” Huskies coach Mark Montgomery said. “That’s something they are going to remember for the rest of their lives. Trendon left it all on the floor, we just came up a little short as a team.” 

“[Trendon] had a little bit more energy,” Montgomery said. “When you are the younger brother you take a lot of losses growing up while playing in the shadows, and I thought he responded and got things going.”

The game was played at a quick tempo throughout and both teams shot over 50% from both the field and behind the 3-point line. The Huskies led by as many as 11in the first half, but the Phoenix put together a 9-0 run in the closing minutes to take a 44-42 lead at the break.

After senior guard Eugene German nailed a 3-pointer to give the Huskies the lead back at 45-44 just 15 minutes into the second half, the Phoenix snapped off a 14-2 run to drive the lead to 11 points with 16:39 left in the game.

The Huskies never led the rest of the contest, but had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds. After UW-GB senior guard JayQuan McCloud, who led all scorers with 32 points, missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Huskies had the ball with 19.1 seconds to go.

German brought the ball up the floor, but UW-GB quickly doubled him as he crossed half court, and the ball made its way to junior forward Nathan Scott, whose 3-pointer from the left wing missed with five seconds to go.

A battle for the rebound ensued, but redshirt senior Lacey James corralled the carom, and flipped it to junior guard Zaire Mateen, whose 5-foot floater at the buzzer bounced out to drop the Huskies to 7-6 on the season.

Montgomery said he knew the double-team on German was going to come and was happy with his decision-making and both shots the Huskies had in the closing seconds.

“We got a wide-open shot,” Montgomery said. “Other players need to make plays, and I want German to share the ball [in that situation] and someone else to step up. That’s what happened, it didn’t go in. Our time will come, we’ll make those next time.”

Statistically, the teams played to an almost stalemate. Both squads shot better than 45% from both the field and the three-point arc, and the Phoenix had just a 40-38 edge in rebounds. The difference in the game came from the free throw line, where UW-GB made 12 of their 17 shots, while the Huskies could manage just an 8-for-19 effort from the stripe.

“All in all, it was probably lost at the line,” Montgomery said. “If we shoot our average of 70 percent, we have a few more points potentially and we could win that game. Credit Green Bay, they made a few more plays than we did.”

James had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Huskies, while Mateen and sophomore guard Darius Beane added nine points apiece. Beane also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.

With the non-conference slate complete, the Huskies have a two-week break before beginning Mid-American Conference play Jan. 4 at the University of Buffalo.

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