Men’s Basketball: Offensive struggles continue as Wildcats fall in another blowout loss

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

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Another game, another bad offensive showing and another rout Northwestern in which wound up on the wrong side.

A bad second half doomed the Wildcats (7-8, 0-2 Big Ten) on Sunday to their second consecutive blowout loss and third straight overall defeat. Northwestern fell to Michigan (9-4, 2-0) 74-51 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Cats renewed their season-long offensive ineptitude, shooting 38.8 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from behind the arc. It was the latest in a series of substandard scoring outputs.

As coach Chris Collins said on WGN Radio after the game, “We’re just having a hard time putting the ball in the basket.”

NU shot a worse percentage, pulled down fewer offensive rebounds and committed more turnovers than Michigan, as guard Nik Stauskas led the Wolverines with 18 points.

Forward Drew Crawford led NU in scoring with 17 points but converted only one field goal in the second half, when the Cats were outscored by 16.

Crawford’s valiant first half was all that kept NU afloat early on. The senior scored more than half of NU’s points and led all scorers with 13 at the break, as the Cats trailed 31-24.

“I got good looks to start the game,” Crawford said. “The whole team did. We had a pretty good first half, still could have made some shots that we missed. Second half, we really just need to play better. We need to put a 40-minute game together.”

In the second half, Michigan concentrated its defensive efforts on Crawford, holding the Cats’ leading scorer to 4 points after halftime.

“He plays all the minutes, he has to do all the dirty work, he has to score all the points, so someone’s got to come in and help him with the scoring load,” sophomore forward Kale Abrahamson said. “Someone’s got to help him rebound and I think that’s on all of us really. It’s got to be a collective effort.”

Crawford’s diminished presence forced others to pick up the scoring slack, a task for which his teammates were largely unprepared.

Alex Olah, coming off a team-high 23 points in Friday’s loss to Wisconsin, dropped in 10 of his 12 points in the second half Sunday, but no other NU player made more than three baskets throughout the afternoon.

The Cats struggled shooting the ball, as has become their tendency, with several key scorers posting especially ugly lines.

Sophomore guard Tre Demps shot 2-10 from the field, junior guard Dave Sobolewski failed to score and junior guard JerShon Cobb finished with as many fouls (4) as points.

“We need Cobb, we need Demps, we need Sobolewski,” Collins said on WGN. “We need those guys to step up and give him some help out there offensive so he doesn’t have to carry the load like that.”

NU appeared to play hard, especially during the first half, but as the game wore on, Michigan’s talent overcame the road team. After a second straight loss of more than 20 points, Collins — not usually one for moral victories — emphasized positives.

“I was pleased with out effort,” he said. “I thought we came out of the game with outstanding effort. I thought our guys were playing incredibly hard and intense.”

But effort won’t save a team that can’t score, especially when opposing teams can key in on its most viable offensive option. For NU to win even a handful of conference games, its secondary scorers will need to contribute. As Sunday showed, Crawford is not capable of shouldering the load alone.

The Cats next face No. 22 Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday.

Twitter: @AlexPutt02