Men’s Basketball: Wildcats’ horrific 3-point shooting on Saturday leads to downfall


Zack Laurence/The Daily Northwestern

Tre Demps looks down. The senior guard scored NU's first 3-pointer of the game after the team missed its prior 17 attempts.

Garrett Jochnau, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

With just over 10 minutes remaining in Northwestern’s home contest against Penn State, Tre Demps watched his 3-point attempt find the bottom of the net. A packed Welsh-Ryan crowd exploded — the result of growing frustration after the Wildcats missed their first 17 attempts from deep.

But the senior guard’s shot failed to turn the tide for the Cats, who finished the night 3-of-26 from deep in Saturday’s 71-62 loss.

Freshman forward Aaron Falzon began the game with a miss from the perimeter, and 40 minutes later, watched a garbage-time 3-point attempt rim out as the buzzer sounded. From start to finish, the Cats were hopeless from deep, and it showed on the scoreboard as they suffered their first truly terrible loss of the season.

“A lot’s going to be made of the shooting, and obviously, when you shoot so poorly, a lot should be made of the shooting,” coach Chris Collins said. “But, to me, you’re not going to make shots if you don’t have the right attitude starting the game.”

The shooting nightmare comes on the heels of a winning effort against Wisconsin, after which Collins stressed the team could win without relying on three-point shooting.

Against Penn State, however, the Cats dug themselves into too big a hole. Coupled with a strong shooting performance from the Nittany Lions — who went 9-of-21 from deep against a struggling NU defense — the Cats’ 3-point effort ultimately proved to be their downfall.

“There was a lack of togetherness tonight,” Demps said. “I don’t know why or what, but I think… the key with our defense is talk, and there wasn’t as much communication as there was last game against Wisconsin. When there’s no communication, that’s when you lose guys. And we lost guys. We gave them a lot of open threes.”

Falzon was easily Northwestern’s coldest player. He finished the night 1-of-9 from the perimeter, scoring just 5 points.

Demps similarly struggled, going 2-of-8 from three and failing to snap out of a slump that has plagued him over the team’s recent stretch.

And while a few of the misses were the result of a Penn State zone that pushed the Cats beyond the 3-point line, many came on open looks.

“I thought we got some looks… and then we just couldn’t make those,” Collins said. “When you’re at home, everyone knows you can’t hit a shot. Every shot becomes the groaning, and that is what it is. I’m doing that inside.”

As the night progressed, the expectation that every shot would fall off target became widespread. Eventually, the team gave in and relied on aggressiveness to get to the rim instead.

The ensuing run gave Welsh-Ryan a final boost of energy, but it proved to be too little too late.

Fittingly, a Demps miss from deep with just under two minutes remaining sparked a fan exodus as NU’s fate was sealed.

If Tuesday’s win over Wisconsin inspired confidence in fans that NU was ready to compete on the big stage, Saturday’s loss did the opposite. The team resorted to its shot-heavy ways, and with a lid on the rim, the Cats watched a winnable game crumble before their eyes.

“The first thing Pat Chambers said to me at the end of the game (was) ‘we made shots and you missed them,’” Collins said. “Sometimes it’s a make or miss game.”

Twitter: @GarrettJochnau