Men’s Basketball: Northwestern trying to avoid a record-setting 11-game losing streak


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Chris Collins watches from the sideline during a game. If the Wildcats lose to Minnesota on Sunday, they’ll reach their longest losing streak of Collins’ career.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Chris Collins has never been afraid of uncharted territory.

It wasn’t that long ago that he took the head coaching job at a school that had never made the NCAA Tournament, or that he turned a group of three- and four-star recruits into a No. 8 seed that almost beat Gonzaga in the second round.

Collins is an optimistic coach with a positive outlook for Northwestern’s future, even with his team on the brink of the longest losing streak in Collins’ coaching career.

The squad hasn’t won since January 11, and if the Wildcats (6-19, 1-14 Big Ten) fall to the Golden Gophers (12-13, 6-9) on Sunday, they would lose a staggering 11th straight game.

“Especially when you have a young group and you’re in a league like ours, these are the moments that test your mettle,” Collins said. “We’ve been here before, and we fought to a really good place. That’s what we’re going to do with these guys.”

Collins promised a win was coming. After NU lost an 8-point lead in the last five minutes against Purdue, Collins said the Cats players were too invested and too talented to keep losing.

That was three weeks ago, and NU still hasn’t won a game.

But he’s been in this position before, and he’s referenced that experience all season. During the 2014-15 campaign, the Cats lost 10 straight games with a youthful roster featuring freshmen Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law.

Collins called that 10-game stretch the hardest time of his tenure with the Cats, but that team snapped the streak with an overtime win over Iowa. McIntosh scored 18 points against the Hawkeyes –– one of his best performances as a freshman –– and NU finished that 2014-15 campaign by winning four of its last six regular season games.

Collins has compared NU’s team in 2014-15 to this year’s group, as they both relied on underclassmen and lost most of their conference games by single digits. But the 2014-15 team won four straight games at the end of February to give the team more confidence going into the following season.

“It reminds me so much of my second year where we started 1-10,” Collins said. “We were battling every night, but we just couldn’t win. Couldn’t get over the hump. But eventually we did. And when we did, we won five of our next seven because we broke through.”

This season, the Cats are running out of time to end the year on an upward trajectory.

One more loss on Sunday would give the Cats their longest losing streak since 2000. NU has five games left this season, and most of them are against teams either projected to make the NCAA Tournament or right on the tournament bubble.

But Minnesota has lost its last three games and has just one road win all season, making Sunday’s game an opportunity for Collins to deliver on his promise from the beginning of February.

During the time of year when teams are jockeying for tournament seeding or a better spot on the bubble, Collins said he just wants to finish the year on a positive note.

“Hopefully I can draw upon experiences where we’ve been through that in the past,” Collins said. “Here are things that were good and here are things I could do differently. That’s what a coach has to do, continually evolve and be the best he can for his team.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @2021_charlie