Collins: "It was a great lesson for our guys"

Chris Collins on the Wisconsin loss: "It was a great lesson for our guys." For him, too.

With 17 conference games remaining for Northwestern – and few positives to glean from the first one – Chris Collins stood before the media trying to grasp at takeaways.

He started with: "It was a great lesson for our guys." And that summarized the humbling 76-49 loss to No. 4 Wisconsin, in so many ways.

First, the Wildcats had their gameplan, and then raced away from it.

"I thought to start the game, we were doing what we wanted to do," Collins said. "We wanted to keep the possessions down. We wanted to play a lower possession game and not just run up and down the floor with them."

For those first five minutes (it didn't last long), NU stayed in contention by drawing out the shot clock and playing patient defense.

But things never quite held up. Wisconsin leaned on Nigel Hayes for interior production, and the Wildcats never adjusted like they needed to. The offense was "glacial," as one blogger aptly put it, and the outcome seemed decided just 10 minutes after a promising start.

"I've got to do a better job with the guys of keeping the game manageable," Collins admitted. "The game was pretty much over by halftime. I've got to do a better job with more timeouts, or whatever, to try to keep it a more manageable score so we have a chance going into the second 20 minutes."

So the learning experience carried over to his coaching, which came under some ridiculous and premature criticism during these past two games.

Basically, you could spell out the main problem like this: He's trying especially hard to compete with an undermanned roster, and he's honest about the results. They've mixed up defenses and tried to work the ball through various players — usually to no avail.

In yesterday's game, Collins went with the 1-3-1 zone. He did everything possible to "stop the bleeding."

"For a four- or five-minute stretch, that zone had them a little bit off their rhythm," Collins said. "Then, they got comfortable, so you've got to do something else."

The good and experienced team settled down. The bad one keeps trying to figure it out.

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