Men’s Basketball: Despite mounting misses, Dave Sobolewski vows to keep shooting

Point+guard+Dave+Sobolewski+has+struggled+with+his+shooting+this+season.+The+junior%E2%80%99s+26.4+percent+field+goal+percentage+is+lowest+on+Northwestern%2C+which+is+worst+in+the+Big+Ten+in+field+goal+and+3-point+percentage.+
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Men’s Basketball: Despite mounting misses, Dave Sobolewski vows to keep shooting

Point guard Dave Sobolewski has struggled with his shooting this season. The junior’s 26.4 percent field goal percentage is lowest on Northwestern, which is worst in the Big Ten in field goal and 3-point percentage.

Point guard Dave Sobolewski has struggled with his shooting this season. The junior’s 26.4 percent field goal percentage is lowest on Northwestern, which is worst in the Big Ten in field goal and 3-point percentage.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Point guard Dave Sobolewski has struggled with his shooting this season. The junior’s 26.4 percent field goal percentage is lowest on Northwestern, which is worst in the Big Ten in field goal and 3-point percentage.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Point guard Dave Sobolewski has struggled with his shooting this season. The junior’s 26.4 percent field goal percentage is lowest on Northwestern, which is worst in the Big Ten in field goal and 3-point percentage.

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

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Dave Sobolewski doesn’t have many answers about his enduring shooting woes.

The junior point guard has been the face of the Wildcats’ offensive putridity through the first half of the season but can’t seem to place the problem.

Sobolewski is shooting just 26.4 percent from the field and 17.7 percent from behind the arc on the season, rates well below the norm for a player expected to contribute on offense. Northwestern as a team is last in the Big Ten in both overall and 3-point shooting percentage and ranks 257th in the country in offensive efficiency according to teamrankings.com.

Coach Chris Collins says the shooting struggles might be mental, but Sobolewski insists they’re not.

“I don’t (think so), actually,” he said Tuesday. “We’re all as a group getting good looks. They all feel good leaving our hands.”

If the misses are not mental — and Sobolewski said they’re not mechanical either — are they attributable to some kind of misfortune? Rim-outs and bad bounces?

“It’s part of the game,” Sobolewski said. “I don’t think it’s bad luck.”

Whatever the cause of such chronic misfiring — from Sobolewski as well as his teammates — it has become a major problem.

The Cats haven’t cracked 60 points in any of their past four games (the latter three losses) and their first two conference games were particularly ugly.

Sobolewski’s issues are only a fraction of the problem, but he is the most dramatic example of NU’s widespread struggles. The junior is posting career lows in points, rebounds and assists per game. The statistical drops are due in part to substantially diminished playing time, which has come largely in response to Sobolewski’s poor shooting.

Sobolewski might be suffering from Collins’ fresh offensive system. The point guard was recruited into former coach Bill Carmody’s methodical Princeton offense, which involves numerous off-ball cuts and quick passes. Collins runs a more traditional offense, with the point guard responsible for facilitating scoring and, of course, hitting shots when open.

Collins says Sobolewski is shooting well in practice and continually refers to the struggles as something that can be overcome by shooting until the slump busts.

“He’s putting a lot of work in,” Collins said. “We’re keeping his confidence up. We’re telling him — everybody, his teammates, our coaching staff — he’s got to take those shots. We need him to take those shots. And the next step is they need to go down in the games.”

In truth, the coach has no choice but to encourage his co-captain. NU has no other true point guard on its roster and depends on scorers Tre Demps and JerShon Cobb to play the position when Sobolewski sits.

The Cats’ general lack of offense also makes Sobolewski a necessary rotation staple. Only senior forward Drew Crawford has produced consistently, and Collins has been perpetually in search of alternate scoring options. Sobolewski, who averaged nearly 10 points per game last year, holds promise as a potential future producer.

So he continues to play because NU lacks depth at his position and because the team is desperate for points, and at least its veteran point guard has shown some degree of offensive capability in the past. In fact, Sobolewski showed his ability to contribute as recently as six weeks ago.

Against Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 20, the junior exploded for a career-high 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting, as NU scored 93 points in a 35-point victory. It was the only game this season in which the guard has converted more than two field goals. The nine baskets he scored that night are more than he has hit from the floor in his last eight games combined.

Collins isn’t asking for another 25-point outburst (although “I’d take that for sure,” he said), but said he hopes a few made baskets will get Sobolewski back on track.

“We need him to have that game where maybe he hits three, four threes,” Collins said. “A game where you string two, three, four together, where he gets that confidence to be able to make them in games.”

NU (7-8, 0-2 Big Ten) visits Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday to face No. 20 Iowa (12-3, 1-1), the conference leaders in field goal defense. It may not be the optimal occasion for Sobolewski to return to form.

But there’s no question Sobolewski will fire if he finds himself open. Collins — who knows something about scoring from his days at Duke, where he averaged 16.3 points per game as a senior — is adamant the cure for poor shooting is more shooting.

“Shooting is a fragile thing mentally with guys,” Collins said. “The only way you can get out of it is you have to be tough-minded. You can’t be afraid to shoot your way out of it. If you stop shooting, or you get more hesitant, that’s not the way you get out of it.”

In that vein, Sobolewski says he and his teammates won’t be holding back. As the playground adage goes, “shooters gotta shoot.”

“We feel like if we keep getting the shots we’ve been getting,” Sobolewski said, “they’ll definitely start to fall.”

Email: asputt@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @AlexPutt02

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