Men’s Basketball: Northwestern struggles to contain No. 10 Wisconsin on defense


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Coach Chris Collins talks to the team in the huddle.

Gabriela Carroll, Web Editor

Men’s Basketball

Unlike some of Northwestern’s other opponents, No. 10 Wisconsin didn’t blow the roof off the arena offensively. But they could have, had just a few more of their wide-open three point shots found their way to the basket.

In the first half of the game, the Badgers shot 6-of-14 from behind the arc, and the Wildcats (6-7, 3-6 Big Ten) struggled to contain their shooters. NU looked out of sorts defensively, running to get a hand in front of the ball before the shot left the Wisconsin players’ hands.

“We tried to play a little bit more single coverage to help ourselves not get strung out on the rotations with the threes,” said coach Chris Collins.

The Cats made up for it, shooting 51.7 percent from the field in the half, helping them stay within single digits after an early run from the Badgers that put them up by a dozen.

The lack of defensive awareness was at times deafening.

It was evident on a three early in the first half by Wisconsin guard D’Mitrik Trice. Every NU player on the floor gathered in the paint, blocking guard Jonathan Davis’ early cut to the basket.

But Davis quickly passed the ball out to Trice, and sophomore guard Boo Buie and junior forward Miller Kopp were left scrambling to get out to the three point line, and Trice easily banked the shot to put the Badgers up 18-11.

Davis made another easy basket off a defensive breakdown when Kopp hung off of him just a few plays later, leaving Davis alone in the corner for an easy backdoor cut and dunk, pulling the Wisconsin lead to 11.

The Badgers’ three point shooting cooled off later in the game. They went 4-for-13, in the second half. But many of those looks, especially in the first minutes of the half, were either wide-open or with minimal coverage.

The Cats are mired in a three-point shooting slump of their own, going 7-for-23 from behind the arc on Wednesday, Collins said that allowing that many three point shots from opposing teams won’t help win games.

“You can’t allow teams to shoot over 40 percent and make 10 to 12 threes on you and expect to win in this conference,” Collins said. “It’s a work in progress. We’re going to stay at it.”

After the game against Iowa on Jan. 17, Collins said defensive breakdowns early in the second half led to compounding offensive struggles.

Against Wisconsin, NU kept pace offensively early in the half, bringing the score to within five. But the Cats weren’t getting stops so much as the Badgers were missing shots. Once the shots started to fall for Wisconsin, NU faltered offensively and couldn’t bring itself back into the game.

Against strong offensive teams like the Hawkeyes and the Badgers, the Cats need to play better defensively to stay competitive, especially in the second half.

“We have to do a better job,” Collins said. “It starts with me. You come into these games, and everybody plays a little different. Defensively, you have your principles in place, but based upon who the best players do, based upon how a team plays, what the strengths are, you’re always trying to make adjustments.”

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Twitter: @gablcarroll

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