Feb. 28, 2014
NUsports.com Special Contributor Skip Myslenski checks in with some fastbreak points as the `Cats head to Nebraska for a Saturday rematch with the Cornhuskers.
JerShon Cobb is finished for the season, sidelined by the foot injury he suffered Feb. 19 at Ohio State and by a knee issue that has lingered for at least a month. "He's beat up and, by the time he might be ready to play, it's going to be the end of the year," Chris Collins said of his junior guard. "So we're going to take the rest of the season, get him healthy and get him ready for a big off-season heading into his senior year."
COBB'S FOOT INJURY will not require surgery. But, said Collins, "The knee might require, nothing major, but maybe an arthroscopic procedure."
THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME Cobb's body has betrayed. Back in 2011-12, his sophomore year, he was also slowed by a hip injury. That is another reason he is being shut down now. The `Cats want him to heal as quickly as possible so he can partake fully in their off-season program. "He's really going to have to have a great off-season of strength and conditioning," explained Collins. "He had a really good year for us, I'm really proud of what he did. But it's going to be important, going into his senior year, that he has a great summer of strength and conditioning and getting his body to the point where he doesn't break down.
"I know it's important to him. He wants to be out there, he wants to be healthy. So we need to do a really good job. I want him to get healthy as soon as possible so he can have a really good summer and get his body as strong as it's ever been and get himself braced to have a great senior year."
COLLINS, AS HE SPOKE THURSDAY,
had not made a final decision on just what starting lineup he would trot out against the Huskers. But he was leaning toward using the one he had employed in Cobb's absence last Saturday against Indiana, where he opened with Tre Demps
and Dave Sobolewski
as well as Alex Olah
, Sanjay Lumpkin
and Drew Crawford
. "I just think we need ball handling on the floor," he said. "With JerShon being out, it takes a ball handler off. With Tre, he's great in the role (he has filled all season). I'd prefer to bring him off the bench. But in the situation we're in right now, especially on the road, it's going to be important for us to get off to a good start."
EQUALLY IMPORTANT will be the `Cats ability to amp up their offense, which scored just 49 points in their loss to Nebraska earlier this month at Welsh-Ryan. The Huskers, in that game, constantly ran double-teams at Crawford and Demps and, said their coach Tim MIles, took "The risk of the other guys making open shots." They did not make enough of them that afternoon and, since then, Collins has talked of looking for ways to ignite the offenses of other guys like Lumpkin and Kale Abrahamson and the freshman Nate Taphorn.
"That's something important, making sure you're elevating your teammates, getting them involved offensively, and making sure they're confident," Crawford said when asked if he does the same. "When you're able to knock down a shot or two, that's going to elevate your game overall. You're going to rebound better, you're going to play better defense. So, yeah. I'm always trying to lift guys up and help get them involved in the game."
Is their involvement especially important now that he's constantly confronting double teams?
"Yeah. I think that's something I have to make sure I'm doing. When teams are focusing a lot of their defense on me, a lot of times the kicks are open. I need to be able to find other guys and trust them to make plays. I need to be able to make the reads and give it up when I need to."
COLLINS, ASKED ABOUT THIS, echoes Bill Shakespeare's Hamlet, who famously declared, "Therein lies a rub." For here the `Cat coach immediately says, "Drew's a willing passer."
But then, with his next breath, he avows, "But he also needs to score."
"So," he then goes on, "it's a fine line. I want him to be in an aggressive mindset. That's where you have to kind of pick-and-choose your spots, when you take a shot versus when you kick out. We're constantly watching film and showing him how people are playing him, where his bailout options are, and we have confidence in those other guys, we want those other guys to shoot open shots. They have to. That's the only way we can ease up the defense a little bit off of Drew and Tre."
But, we light-heartedly suggest, you don't want him to do a Kobe Bryant, who would famously not shoot for a quarter while getting teammates involved.
"I don't know if we'd be able to score 30 points, let alone 50, if he did that," Collins says with a chuckle. "We need Drew to be aggressive. He knows that and the guys want him to be aggressive. It's just that, when they do double, or when they send other guys. . .he's in a position to make a lot of plays for us. We run our offense through Drew primarily and he has the ability to make a lot of reads."
QUICKLY NOTED: Asked about Alex Olah, who's playing through sprains to both ankles, Collins said, "He's feeling better. All reports are that he's doing well. We've had some workouts, he's done some stuff. But we've taken it easy with him the early part of the week to give those ankles the best chance to get strong as we head into these last couple games.". . . Asked if his team, which has a short bench, is wearing down, he said, "I've noticed it a little bit. There's no question, when you don't have the depth, you don't have the bodies, in a league like this, I think it's worn on us. It's put a lot of pressure on our guys and for the most part they've been great. But I do think we got a little worn down and hopefully, with this bye (the past week), we can kind of sprint to the finish and have some energy maybe we didn't have the last couple of weeks.". . . The Huskers' big gun is forward Terran Peteway, who in conference games only leads the Big Ten in scoring (19.0 ppg). "He's one of the best players in our league and probably the best scorer in our league," Collins said of him. "I think he's great at the end of shot clocks too. You have to do a great job of denying him the ball and not letting him have the chance to throw in a tough shot against you."
AND FINALLY, Collins, on replacing Cobb: "I'm hoping now, in these last few games, guys like Dave, guys like Taphorn, guys like Kale, they'll have more of an opportunity to have the ball in their hands, to do some things, and we'll see what they can do."
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook, subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter and sign up to receive promotional text alerts for the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!