He needed a different kind of lift at the foul line, where he went 7 of 29 last season, a dreadful 24.1 percent. His improvement there is noticeable, both in form and a 65.2 percent result.
And consider this: He hit all eight free throws against Ohio on Jan. 5, and then the first attempt four days later against Tulsa. That nine-shot streak from the line is the team's third-longest this season, topped only by streaks of 14 and 12 (still active) by D.D. Scarver.
Combined with his team-high 57.4 percent from the field, that is allowing Herrion to trust Hanner more in critical situations. At UTEP last weekend, he played much of the final 8:51, contributing three baskets and two blocks in helping the Herd cut a 20-point deficit to nine.
He played 18 minutes in the previous game against Tulsa, contributing four assists. Both were career highs.
"As he continues to gain a better understanding, his minutes have increased, and he's doing a good job," Herrion said. "I think he's one of our most improved players. It may not always reflect in his stat line or his minutes, but he's one of our most improved players."
One who is working toward that next March moment.
"It was a great experience," he said. "We won that game, and we had a lot of fun in that game, too. It was fun playing with those guys; still fun playing with those guys.
"I look at it [like] we've got to get back to that point."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.