Brutal schedule staggers Pipers

0-2 MIAC record belies competitive start to men’s basketball conference season.

Junior guard Zach Smith (10) presses the attack against Augsburg in Hamline’s 60-69 defeat to the Auggies.

Taylor Geer

Junior guard Zach Smith (10) presses the attack against Augsburg in Hamline’s 60-69 defeat to the Auggies.

Rebecca Higgins, Reporter

Hamline’s men’s basketball team battles against the top teams in the conference. The Pipers’ record for non-conference games is 3-1. They started the season with an 88-78 non-conference win against Northwestern University (MN).

“We had a really nice win against Northwestern, which is a great start to the year. They are a very good team and do well on the national scene,” Head Coach Jim Hayes said. “They are usually the powerhouse of their league.”

The win against Northwestern shows that the Pipers have improved a lot since last year. Last year, Hamline started the season with a loss to Northwestern of 67-81. This season the Pipers won with a 10 point advantage.

After a close 82-86 loss against UW-Superior and a 74-63 win against Northland College (WI), they beat North Central (MN) 83-57.

Hamline’s men’s basketball team’s current standing in the MIAC is 0-2. The Pipers had a challenging start to their conference season by playing Augsburg and Bethel.

“Bethel was picked second in the league by the preseason coaches’ poll, and Augsburg was tied for third,” Hayes said. “We know the challenges that we face starting off the conference year. Our guys relish that challenge.”

While the Pipers may not have won their first two conference games, they are showing that they can compete with the top teams in the MIAC. In both games, Hamline had a good chance to beat both the Auggies and Royals.

In game against Augsburg, there were three tied scores and 11 lead changes. The Pipers finished the first half of the game with a lead of 30-27. However, Augsburg was able to pass the Pipers and win with a score of 60-69.

Similarly, the Pipers kept their game against Bethel close. Both teams led four times in the game, but the Royals entered halftime with a 40-52 lead. The Pipers managed to get as close as a 72-76 deficit with 4:16 left on the clock, but Bethel put together a 12-3 run over the remainder of the game and closed out their 75-88 victory over the Pipers.

For both conference games, opponents outscored the Pipers in the paint and at the free-throw line. The Auggies scored 28 points in the paint and the Royals scored 34 points in the paint. Moving forward, the Pipers’ defensive end will have to be mindful of this to prevent opponents from getting easy points.

“Defensively, we exclusively play man on man,” Hayes said.

Man on man is a defensive strategy that pairs a defensive player with an offensive player that they have to guard. This strategy has the advantage of accounting for all the offensive players. However this can pose a problem if offensive players break away from their guard.

In that scenario, zone defense can be a better strategy. Zone defense is when each defensive player is assigned a section of the court to guard from offensive players. This could be beneficial in the Pipers’ case to prevent opponents from entering the paint.

In addition, zone defense preserves defensive energy as they do not have to chase an offensive player. The downside of this is that it does not account for all offensive players. There may be two offensive players within the same zone and only one guard.

“Offensively, we run a motion offense with a lot of screens,” Hayes said.

Motion offense takes advantage of explosive movements by a player. These movements make guarding offensive players difficult. This strategy is used with screens.

Screens are when a player stands still by an opponent with their arms crossed, blocking an opponent. This is used to free an offensive player.

“We know the challenge is very different going into conference games as opposed to non-conference games” Hayes said. “I am looking forward to seeing where these guys go. I think we have a chance to win the conference, and this group has a chance to do some special things.”

The Pipers return to the court tonight in a 7:00 p.m. game at St. Thomas. Their weekend game is a 3:00 p.m. matchup on Carleton’s home court.