Men’s Basketball: Northwestern hopes to rebound, pull off home upset of Michigan


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Robbie Beran surveys the floor. The freshman forward started for the Wildcats on Saturday

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern has shown flashes of greatness over their 12 conference games. But the young Wildcats (6-16, 1-11 in Big Ten) have just a single win to show for it.

While jumping out to surprising early leads over favored opponents hasn’t been a problem for NU, the team’s inability to close in the final minutes has been their downfall.

During a recent road trip to Rutgers, the Cats came closer to winning a Big Ten game than they’ve been all season, playing its first overtime game of the year. NU led by 18 at one point, were up by double-digits with just over five minutes to go in regulation and had a chance at a buzzer-beater on the final possession of regulation. But they couldn’t convert any of those opportunities to a win.

Instead, the Scarlet Knights held the Cats to one field goal over the final seven minutes of regulation and controlled the overtime period, finishing off them off 77-73. The loss came just days after NU surrendered an eight point lead at home to Purdue in the final four minutes and lost on a buzzer-beater.

“We’ve had four or five of these over our last seven, eight games,” coach Chris Collins said. “It can go one of two ways. It either makes you tougher and you keep fighting or you back down. There’s no lack of fight in our group.”

The Cats’ youth is certainly a factor behind the recent late-game collapses. But the opponents that have handed NU these last-second losses — expected tournament teams like Maryland, Purdue and Rutgers — give the team little margin for error.

“(Losing) is a difficult part and (they’re) in a year this year with the Big Ten as good as ever,” Collins said. “Every night you’re playing NCAA tournament-quality opponents.”

That trend continues on Wednesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena, when the Cats will face Michigan (14-9, 5-7) for the first time this season. This year’s Wolverines aren’t the national contenders they have been in recent years — they’re tied for tenth in the conference. But Michigan is coming off wins over two ranked Big Ten teams in Rutgers and Michigan State.

With NU’s losing streak now at seven and time running out to make up ground in the Big Ten, a home upset of Michigan would go a long way in giving the Cats a much-needed boost of confidence and help to start flipping the narrative of the season. Despite the string of demoralizing losses, Collins believes his team is still fighting.

“You find where you have to dig down to,” Collins said. “We have a lot of young players that can be winning players in this conference, and I just want them to stay the course.”

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