Men’s Basketball: Cobb scores big, fades late against Minnesota

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

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Before the season, Northwestern coach Chris Collins suggested JerShon Cobb might be the team’s leading scorer.

For a while, it looked like he might be right. Through eight games, the junior guard was averaging 15.1 points a game.

But Cobb scored just 15 total points his next two outings, then missed a pair of games with a sprained ankle.

For one reason or another, Cobb’s production dropped when he returned. Over his next seven games, the guard reached double digits only twice and his scoring average fell to the low double digits.

Since then, NU has played seven games and Cobb has topped 10 points in six of them. The last two games have been his best since November. He scored 22 points at Michigan State on Thursday, then a season-high 23 — almost half the team’s total — Sunday against Minnesota, shooting 8-13 including 5-7 from 3-point range.

But the Cats lost both games, and Cobb faded down the stretch.

Against the Spartans, he took only one shot in the game’s last 15:51 (and missed), and Sunday he didn’t score over the last 10:18, this time on three shots.

Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said with Crawford struggling, the Golden Gophers’ defensive attention shifted to Cobb and theorized that could explain the junior’s late-game lack of presence.

Cobb said his focus wasn’t on his own point total, so when the defense keyed on him, his instinct was to defer to teammates.

“Down the stretch I had the ball, and they were trying to get the ball out of my hands,” Cobb said. “So I made the play to my teammates. It’s not about me scoring points.”

Foul trouble also played a role. With 7:50 to play, Cobb came off the floor with four fouls and sat for several minutes.

Collins said he considered leaving Cobb in the game but thought the team could handle a few minutes without one of its best playmakers.

“The game was right there. It was tied,” Collins said. “I thought maybe if I could buy a couple minutes just to get to the six minute mark. … I did think about it.”

But NU didn’t score with Cobb out, and when he came back, the offense was out of rhythm. The Cats at one point went almost seven minutes without scoring and between 10:18 remaining and 0:15 left converted just one field goal.

“His foul trouble hurt us,” Collins said. “He had it really going. … Him having to sit for those few minutes takes one of our offensive weapons off the floor.”

Twitter: @AlexPutt02