Men’s Basketball: Wildcats look to reset before facing Hawkeyes


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

The Wildcats were an offensive mess against Michigan State on Tuesday in a 68-44 loss. But coach Chris Collins is still putting most of his trust in his veterans, including junior guard Tre Demps, who scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting against the Spartans.

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

After a deflating loss to Michigan State at home Tuesday, Northwestern is doing its best to refocus.

The Wildcats (10-14, 1-10 Big Ten) face another tough matchup Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena against Iowa (15-8, 6-4), a team that won’t be pulling any punches in an effort to earn a statement win on the road and build its NCAA tournament resume.

After playing so many games so close this season, NU seemed to lack effort early against Michigan State. With the contest well out of hand, coach Chris Collins turned to playing many of his freshmen, but he insists the Cats are still trying to remain competitive and that he “owes it to the older guys” to be in it for every game.

“We’re still trying to win,” Collins said. “That’s not going to change even though we’ve been losing. … We’re going to approach this game Sunday trying to win, like we have the other ones.”

He added that the team needs to regain the fighting spirit that propelled it through a stretch of heartbreaking losses. Perhaps the only NU player who reflected that fiery attitude against the Spartans was junior guard Tre Demps, who put up 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. No other Cats player had more than 9 points in the contest.

The veteran starter insisted the team still has the drive and motivation to win, it just can’t get caught up in the length of its losing streak or the depth of its defeats.

“If you get dejected after losing a lot of games, you’re not going to give yourself a chance moving forward,” Demps said. “There’s always another game.”

He’s right in that a negative attitude will do little good against Iowa, a team that sits sixth in the Big Ten and is currently very much on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. While the Hawkeyes have had ups and downs this season, their two most recent wins were double-digit drubbings of No. 19 Maryland and Michigan, two teams the Cats have lost to this season.

Iowa is led by senior forward Aaron White, a bruiser down low who can also stretch the floor with his shooting. He is fifth in the conference in rebounding with 6.6 boards per game, leads the Hawkeyes in scoring with 15 points per game on an impressive 52.6 percent shooting percentage, has gotten to the line 167 times — a number that is top 20 in the nation — and made nearly 80 percent of his free throws. He also has the most steals on the team with 33.

White and his teammates are also happy to run when given the opportunity. Giving up points in transition hurt NU against Michigan State, and Collins is looking to avoid more of the same.

“We’re going to have to get back, get our defense set,” Collins said. “They’re good free throw shooters as well. You have to play without fouling.”

Depth due to foul trouble has been a problem for the Cats at times this season, and it may be again Sunday with the status of senior guard JerShon Cobb and sophomore forward Nathan Taphorn — both struggling with foot injuries — still unclear.

Collins said veterans will still take precedence, but freshmen like seldom-used guard Johnnie Vassar, who played five minutes against the Spartans after playing just a combined three in NU’s previous two games, insist they’re ready to go.

“The approach isn’t any different,” Vassar said. “You have to be ready when coach calls your name.”

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