Men’s Basketball: Anthony Gaines has the green light in 59-50 loss to Rutgers


Daily file photo by Noah Fricks-Alofs

Anthony Gaines dribbles the ball. The sophomore guard scored 10 points on Saturday.

Andrew Golden, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Almost a month ago, after back-to-back wins against Rutgers and Indiana, it seemed that Northwestern had gained some momentum in conference play.

But after the Wildcats’ 59-50 loss to Nebraska on Sunday, NU (12-13, 3-11 Big Ten) is now searching for answers after losing its sixth straight game. NU’s struggles offensively have been holding them back over the past six games, where the Cats have averaged only 55.8 points.

On Saturday, NU scored 50 points on 34.5 percent shooting from the field. Only three players reached double figures and once again the offense looked stagnant.

The Cornhuskers contained senior center Dererk Pardon, causing him to have an unusually inefficient game. Pardon scored 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting, forcing the Cats to look for other offensive weapons.

For the Cats, scoring woes have been a struggle all season, as they’ve scored fewer than 60 points in five of their last six games. NU has continued to put an emphasis on perimeter shooting, despite the fact that the team is in the bottom half of the conference in 3-point percentage. The Cats are currently 10th in the Big Ten in percentage, but have attempted 563 threes, the sixth-most in the conference.

NU has attempted at least 17 threes in every conference game this season and took 25 in Lincoln, Nebraska against the Cornhuskers, the second-most of any Big Ten game thus far.

Everyone was taking shots from behind the arc — from senior forward Vic Law, who attempted eight, to freshman forward Miller Kopp, who added two. Even the centers took their chances: Pardon made one of his two and junior Barret Benson took one, but missed badly.

However, the player who took his chances the most from behind the arc was sophomore guard Anthony Gaines. Gaines, whose primary offensive use is to attack the basket, didn’t just take one or two shots from the behind the 3-point line — he took seven.

The sophomore guard scored the first points of the game on a 3-pointer. But that didn’t change Nebraska’s game plan of letting the visiting team fire from deep. When Gaines had the ball in his hands to facilitate the offense, the Cornhuskers gave him lots of space, almost begging him to shoot it.

For the rest of the game, Gaines attempted six more threes, but made just one. Despite the percentage, if Gaines stays this aggressive from the field, he could emerge as an integral part of the offense.

With the Cats’ top three scorers leaving next season, the question for them will be who is going to carry the offensive load. While there could be potential options on the current team or in the incoming recruiting class, Gaines is taking an opportunity to expand his game and become a more relevant choice.

Coming into the game, Gaines had not attempted more than three 3-pointers in a game all season. In this game, coach Chris Collins clearly showed his confidence in Gaines, giving him the green light to attempt seven 3-pointers.

Gaines is already one of the best players on the team when it comes to attacking the basket. If Gaines works on his three-pointer during the offseason, he could become an extremely potent weapon for NU moving forward.

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Twitter: @andrewcgolden