Jan. 8, 2014
NUsports.com Special Contributor Skip Myslenski offers up a look ahead to the Northwestern men's basketball team's game at Iowa on Thursday night.
THE `CATS have averaged just 52 points over their last four games and, on the season, are averaging a Big Ten worst 64.5 ppg. Their field goal percentage (40.8) and their three-point field goal percentage (31.7) are also the lowest in the conference, and so the theme is familiar as they head to Iowa for a Thursday night meeting with the Hawkeyes. "Offense has been a struggle for us. We need other guys to give us some production," says Chris Collins, echoing a refrain he has sung often this season.
Drew Crawford, of course, has been their prime producer all through the season and is averaging a robust 16 ppg. But, notes Collins, "What happens a lot is Drew is forced into a position to do a lot, and he gets tired. In order for us to get over that, some other guys have to give us some more production so it doesn't put everything on his plate where we get to the second half and he's worn out."
POINT Dave Sobolewski is one of those other guys who was expected to produce. But he is shooting just 26.4 percent from the field. Another of those guys is the versatile JerShon Cobb. But he is shooting just 39.5 percent from the field. Then there is guard Tre Demps, whose role is to be the Energizer Bunny off the bench. But he is shooting just 39 percent from the field. "What you have to look at is, `Are they getting good shots?'" Collins will say when asked about his team's shooting woes. "It's not always the right shots. But in most cases I feel like we're doing some good things offensively and guys are getting looks where I say, `Would I want that guy having that shot?' More often than not, my answer is, `Yes.'
"You have to be very careful. Shooting is a fragile thing mentally with guys. We just have to keep getting our work done. We have to keep being positive. As long as we're getting the right shots for the right guys, we've got to keep taking those shots. If you start saying `Don't shoot' or `You need to try this,' then you can really get screwed up mentally. It's been a tough thing. I do feel we have guys who are good shooters. It just seems a number of them are struggling to find the range."
SINCE HE DID USE THE M-WORD, we wondered if the `Cats shooting woes could now be a mental thing? "Yeah. That's what you worry about when it happens over time," Collins said. "The only way you can get out of it is you've got to be tough-minded. You can't be afraid to shoot your way out of it. If you stop shooting, or if you get more hesitant, that's not the way to go about it. It's almost like you have to be even more aggressive, shoot even more. I'm waiting for that one game where we can string a few together. Again, shooting is very fragile. You can be struggling, thinking you can't hit a shot, then all of a sudden you see it go in one or two times and your whole mindset changes. So. Keeping my fingers crossed and hoping and praying that maybe tomorrow will be that day."
QUICKLY NOTED: Crawford (16, 7.3) and Michigan State's Adreian Payne (16.1, 7.9) are the only two Big Ten players averaging both 16 points and seven rebounds a game...Collins' mom Kathy is from Cedar Rapids and, as a senior at Glenbrook North, he took an official visit to Iowa before choosing to play at Duke. "It's definitely a place I've always enjoyed," he recalls...Hawkeye coach Fran McCaffery will sit out Thursday's game, serving the one-game suspension he was slapped with for his outburst during the Hawkeyes' Sunday loss Wisconsin. They will instead be guided by assistant Kirk Speraw, who was the head coach at Central Florida from 1993-2010. "If it was not a veteran team who didn't have such a good staff, it might be a little more difficult for them," Collins said of McCaffery's absence. "But you look at that staff, there's a number of head coaches on that bench. And their team has been together for a long time. So they know what they're supposed to be doing, how they're supposed to be playing."...The 12-3 Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 86.1 ppg. Their field goal percentage defense (36.2) is also the league's best...Their leading scorer is 6-foot-6 senior Roy Devyn Marble, who's averaging 16.1 ppg. But another big part of their success is their bench, which is averaging 37.8 points and 22.7 rebounds per game...The Hawkeyes' losses have been to No. 9 Iowa State by three, to No. 4 Wisconsin by four and to No. 8 Villanova by five in overtime.
AND FINALLY, coincidentally enough, Collins' father Doug was a Penn assistant during McCaffery's senior season with the Quakers.
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