Men’s Basketball: Northwestern loses its 11th straight game in blowout fashion


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Pat Spencer dribbles the ball. The graduate transfer guard finished the game with four points and six assists.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips made the long walk near the end of the first half, going from his seat at the top of Welsh-Ryan Arena’s lower bowl all the way down to the Wildcats bench.

NU was having its worst half of the season Sunday against Minnesota, and Phillips followed the team into the locker room when it ended to hear what coach Chris Collins had to say.

Playing against the twelfth place team in the Big Ten, NU allowed its most first half points of the season, and the Cats had their biggest halftime deficit of the year. When the team assembled in the locker room, Collins stressed that NU wasn’t playing the right way.

Collins reminded the players that they gave up almost 50 points in the half, told them Minnesota was getting to the rim too easily and challenged them to rebound better than they had been.

But those issues weren’t fixed with a halftime speech, even with Phillips offering moral support. The Cats (6-20, 1-15) lost their 11th straight game, falling 83-57 to Minnesota (13-13, 7-9).

“Our staff takes total responsibility for it,” Collins said. “I’ve got to do a better job of having our guys ready. It’s at a point in the season where you’ve got to be ready to compete at a high level, and you’re not going to be competitive if you give up 83 points and 14 threes and allow a team to shoot from 50 percent from the field and give up 12 offensive rebounds. We have to be much better.”

After losing by just 9 points to No. 7 Maryland last Tuesday, Collins said he thought NU would have some momentum heading into a matchup against one of the few Big Ten teams with a losing record. But the Cats never lead after the opening minutes, and the Golden Gophers made seven three-point shots before the break to take a 16-point halftime lead.

Even after Collins focused on defense in his halftime talk, NU allowed a season-high 83 points. Center Daniel Oturu led Minnesota with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and the Golden Gophers made almost half of their 30 three-point attempts.

After the Cats allowed their most points of the season, Collins said NU’s defense is far from where it needs to be.

“We didn’t guard to ball well, our pick and roll coverages were poor and we weren’t in our help spots,” Collins said. “The very first thing we have to do is practice hard. The guys will have an off day, but then we have a couple days to have a couple hard practices. That’s what it’s going to take.”

Sophomore forward Pete Nance had a team-high 11 points for the Cats, and freshman center Ryan Young finished with 10. But NU made fewer than 40 percent of its shots, and the team trailed by more than 20 points for most of the second half.

Now the pressure keeps building for a program on pace to have its worst season since 2000. The Cats have had three ten-game losing streaks with Collins as the head coach, but now NU has lost a record-setting 11 straight.

“Nobody is going to abort the mission,” Collins said. “At the end of the day, sometimes days like this happen. It’s definitely no fun to go through, but it can be part of a process if we handle it the right way.”

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Twitter: @2021_charlie