Men’s Basketball: Northwestern continues to find new ways to lose competitive matchups


Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Boo Buie shoots the ball. The freshman guard made three straight threes on Saturday, but the Cats still came up short.

Gabriela Carroll, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern had one of its strongest offensive performances of the season, but poor game management and inability to score in the final minutes led to yet another disappointing loss by the Wildcats.

NU (6-15, 1-10 Big Ten) led Purdue by eight points with just over three minutes to go on Saturday night. After that, the Cats’ offense stagnated, with graduate guard Pat Spencer continually holding onto the ball around the half-court line deep into the shot clock before attempting to run the offense.

NU didn’t score a single point after going up 58-50 at 4:34, and poor strategy to end the game led to a last second, game-winning three by Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic. In those last four minutes, the Cats exclusively attempted 3-point shots, and each possession either ended in a missed shot or a turnover.

“Their pressure put us in a position where we had to play out of our pick and roll game,” coach Chris Collins said. “I thought we got two really good looks in the corner that were the same looks they got. Maybe even more open than (Purdue guard Jahaad) Proctor’s three. Sometimes, it’s a make or miss deal.”

NU has now lost four games when it’s had leads of five points or more with under five minutes to go. The Cats’ inability to perform at the end of games has been a crucial factor in most of their conference defeats, leading to a 1-10 record in Big Ten play.

NU is a very young team — in the final minutes of the game, three freshmen, a sophomore, and Spencer were on the court. Collins said the Cats, despite playing well and staying competitive in close games, lack the experience that helps other Big Ten programs come out with wins, while NU is 1-6 in games where they are either one possession up or down in the final five minutes.

“Everybody gets to points in their career where they get knocked down,” Collins said. “The ones that are rewarded are the ones that keep fighting. I really like the mindset of our guys because there have been a number of times this year where they could have, not laid down, but be beaten down to the point of ‘I don’t know if I want to keep going back to the drawing board.’”

Collins has referenced his 2014-15 campaign many times when speaking about this current season. That team went 1-10 in conference play, before breaking through to go 5-2 in its remaining games. Now officially past the halfway point of the Big Ten schedule, the Cats are still waiting for that breakthrough.

“We’re just trying to keep our guys in the fight,” Collins said. “For some of these guys maybe as freshmen, who’ve won a lot and been in winning situations, it’s the first time they’ve been knocked back. I’ve always said that’s when you find out what you’re made of.”

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