Men’s Basketball: Wildcats’ woeful rebounding spells defeat against Spartans

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Height only matters if you know how to use it, and Northwestern is surely a work in progress in this regard.

Despite being significantly taller than Michigan State, the Wildcats failed to match up down low with the Spartans in Sunday’s overtime loss in East Lansing, Michigan.

NU is at +1.9 in effective height, according to Meanwhile, Michigan State is last in the Big Ten at -0.9.

Although Michigan State is known for having a trio of guards who can shoot the lights out, the Spartans outscored the Wildcats 34-26 in the paint. They also out-rebounded the Cats and held a major advantage on the offensive glass.

Michigan State turned 11 offensive rebounds into 12 second-chance points. Eight of those boards came from 6-foot-6 forward Branden Dawson and 6-foot-9 forward Gavin Schilling, who was giving up three inches to Cats center Alex Olah.

Dawson and Schilling outworked NU’s big men. Even when they could not fully corral a rebound, they often got a piece of the basketball, leading to three tip-ins in the second half.

However, coach Chris Collins said he was satisfied with the Cats’ effort.

“You might not always make shots, but you can bring effort, you can bring attitude and you can bring fight,” Collins said to WGN. “And we definitely did that tonight.”

NU finished with a respectable seven offensive boards but did not get its first until the 4:02 mark of the second half. Even so, the Cats turned those seven second-chance opportunities into just 4 second-chance points.

NU has lost the rebounding battle in all three of its Big Ten games, and offensive rebounding in particular has been an issue. The Cats are 11th in the Big Ten and 232 in the nation with a 29.4 offensive rebounding percentage, at time of publishing.

For a team that does not shoot the ball well from the field, having so many possessions with just one shot attempt makes scoring even more difficult. The Cats scored 1.11 points per possession Sunday against an elite defense, but their track record shows that is an anomaly.

Heading into Sunday’s contest, NU was averaging just 1.01 points per possession against a set of defenses far easier than the Spartans’ stingy unit.

If the Cats can keep up Sunday’s stellar shooting performance (54 percent from the field in regulation), the rebounding question becomes less of an issue. More than likely though, NU will revert back closer to its offensive average. And unless rebounding becomes much improved, NU will seriously struggle on the offensive end going forward.

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