Men’s Basketball: Northwestern rallies back but falls to Rutgers for eighth-straight loss


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Ryan Young backs his defender down during Northwestern’s loss to Rutgers on Jan. 31. The Cats lost their 10th straight game in a double overtime loss to Indiana.

Gabriela Carroll, Web Editor

Men’s Basketball

After a disastrous opening, Northwestern rallied to keep Sunday’s game against Rutgers competitive, but the Wildcats never fully capitalized on their opportunities and fell 64-56.

That NU (6-9, 3-8 Big Ten) even had a chance after falling behind early by 20 points was a testament to their resilience, coach Chris Collins said.

“We’ve got to get better,” Collins said. “We did fight hard, we did bounce back, which was a real positive from a big hole. I was pleased with that aspect of it.”

Though the Cats played competitively, the result was the same as the past seven games: yet another tick in the loss column.

The Scarlet Knights’ defense made the difference early as double teams on ball left NU struggling to complete passes across the perimeter to their guards.

“They were in the post, and they were knocking down dribble handoffs,” said sophomore center Ryan Young. “They average the most steals in the Big Ten. They just jumped on us in the first 10 minutes.”

Down low, Young scored four of the Cats’ six points in the first eight minutes, while other NU players struggled to find open looks on the baseline. The Cats committed five turnovers in those first eight minutes.

Rutgers fed off the energy with their loud, enthusiastic bench and jumped out to a 20-point lead. In the first 12 minutes, Rutgers shot 65 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc.

To counter Rutgers’ perimeter defense, Collins put Young in to play with junior forward Pete Nance in a two-big lineup. With those two down low, the Cats forced the Scarlet Knights to put more defenders in the paint, which opened up the perimeter for its shooters and made them a more formidable offensive rebounding threat.

“That’s an exciting lineup we can go to that worked tonight,” Young said. “It produced big inside, just like every other team in the league. We need to match that kind of size, both defensively and rebounding.”

As the half progressed, the game got sloppy. Rutgers racked up 11 turnovers in the half to NU’s 10. The Cats capitalized on the Scarlet Knights’ turnovers to close the half on a 18-3 run and cut the lead to five at the break.

But the momentum stopped there as NU scored just six points in the first ten minutes of the second half. The Cats went on a 10-0 run late to pull within five, but turnovers on offensive possessions in the final two minutes foiled NU’s chances at a comeback.

Despite entering the game averaging 10.8 turnovers, NU turned the ball over a season-high 20 times on Sunday. But many of the Cats’ turnovers came off travels, which Collins said was uncharacteristic of his team.

“We were a little bit careless at times,” Collins said. “I thought we got the ball into bad areas. We had some uncharacteristic travels and carrying violations. We had a couple opportunities in the fast breaks in the second half where guys were out ahead of the play, and we had some turnovers there.”

With the postponement of their upcoming game against Michigan due to COVID-19 concerns within the Wolverines’ athletic department, the Cats have a full five days to prepare for their next opponent, Purdue.

Collins said NU is just a few plays away from elevating itself in the conference, and its performance in the early weeks of the Big Ten season suggests that he’s right.

But are the Cats of late December still in there? And if they are, when are they going to make their reappearance?

“I don’t think we’re far off,” Collins said. “It’d be different if we just rolled out here every night and were just getting blitzed every night. It’s in there. I have to do a better job of bringing it out of these guys, and on a more consistent basis.”

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