Men’s Basketball: Northwestern’s offense vanishes in loss to Minnesota

Senior forward Drew Crawford was off-target all night Sunday, as Northwestern’s offense sputtered to three points over a critical 10 minutes late in the Minnesota loss.

Rohan Nadkarni, Reporter

The Wildcats’ penchant for playing close games is starting to catch up to them.

Northwestern (12-14, 5-8 Big Ten) fell to Minnesota (17-9, 6-7) 54-48 in a tight affair Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. NU’s offense cratered in the second half, scoring only 7 points in the last 10 minutes and 18 seconds of the game.

“I thought it really followed the same script that most of our games have,” coach Chris Collins said. “We just couldn’t score enough points. We’re going to play close games and we have to execute down the stretch.”

NU’s fortunes went from bad to worse as the half went on.

With just under three minutes to go, sophomore center Alex Olah landed awkwardly, appearing to sprain his right ankle. With only four players able to run back on defense, the Golden Gophers took advantage with a 3-pointer to take a 49-44 lead that effectively put the game away.

“It’s just an unlucky break,” Collins said. “We couldn’t take a foul because we were over the limit.”

The Cats failed to capitalize on their next few possessions after the big shot, with redshirt freshman forward Sanjay Lumpkin missing two free throws in between missed 3s by senior forward Drew Crawford and junior guard JerShon Cobb.

Cobb was NU’s best player for most of the night. He scored 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including five 3-pointers. Foul trouble limited the junior in the second half, but he still managed to put up 10 points.

“I’d rather have zero points and win,” Cobb said. “(The foul trouble) was very frustrating. I hate coming out of the game. If I have to leave the game because of foul trouble, I blame myself.”

Both teams’ star players struggled for much of the night.

Crawford’s roller-coaster season continued with another down performance. He began the game missing all seven of his shots in the first 30 minutes. Crawford finished with 2 points on 1-15 shooting and three turnovers, fouling out with 10 seconds to go.

Sophomore guard Tre Demps was also a non-factor for much of the game, finishing with 9 points.

“They did a great job of denying us the ball,” Demps said. “Their guards did a great job defensively, making other guys handle it.”

On the other side of the court, Minnesota guard Andre Hollins could barely get his own shot off. He was smothered by the Cats’ defense, which has done a commendable job all season in limiting opposing teams’ top scorers. Hollins shot 2-of-7 and finished with 8 points.

“It’s our team defense,” Collins said about the effort on Hollins. “We try to do the best we can of taking teams out of their comfort zone. They have firepower and they’re a good team. Our defense was tremendous.”

In the first half, NU’s defense didn’t shut down the Golden Gophers’ offense. Minnesota was able to shoot 50 percent from the field, including four of seven from the 3-point line. The Cats countered the good shooting by forcing 10 turnovers in the first period.

The Cats only shot 36 percent in the opening period, but four 3s and perfect six-of-six shooting from the free throw line gave them a 28-25 lead heading into the decisive second half.

But, as it has in most of its losses this season, NU’s poor shooting sunk itself. In the second half, the Cats shot 25 percent from the field, 22.2 percent from 3, and 50 percent from the free throw line.

“Our offense is what it is,” Collins said. “That’s who we’ve been the whole year. At times, it looks really good when the ball is going in. Our defense can only hold up for so long.”

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