Collins, team search for comfort on offense

Chris Collins didn't want his team to slow it down like they did against Wisconsin. Instead, he told the team to "play its game," resulting in another lacking offensive performance.

I asked Kale Abrahamson the following question outside of the locker room on Sunday: "So was the goal for you guys to really, really slow it down and keep it in a low possession game? And what are some of the steps you're taking to get open shots up?"

Somewhat to my surprise, he answered with this: "For Wisconsin, it definitely was. This game, he said just play your game. Come out and run your offense. Run what we've doing all year, and be us."

And it's the shifting identity that can be worrisome. Northwestern ended up in another slow game — at their own leisure. Still, Chris Collins continues to "press the buttons" and motivate his dormant offense.

They haven't found a comfortable, consistent interior presence, and that often results in 25 seconds of the ball being relayed around the perimeter. They can't create enough open three-point looks, and when they do, they don't make them.

So that was their "game": Six-of-23 from behind the arc, 38 percent overall shooting, four offensive rebounds and fewer shot attempts than in the Wisconsin loss. Left alone, they're lacking facilitators. The average quality of possession is downright bad.

Collins fairly places the blame on his team's offense for the general struggles. (Fatigue might work too.) After the game, he said the intense defense couldn't sustain his team for 40 minutes: "When you don't score, it affects you mentally… Over the course of time, it really affects the other areas of our game."

It was a surprise that the Wildcats even reached 50. Jershon Cobb continued his recent slide with a poor performance, Tre Demps looked – again – like the only aggressive player despite his many missed shots. Is it a mentality? Is it a system? Is it a plan? There's no true way to evaluate the extent of this team's offensive problems, and only vague solutions.

Collins called himself a "gunner," as though to encourage the team to keep shooting. Sobolewski's still trying as his three-point percentage lingers around 18 percent — not a typo. Demps has always been trigger-happy. And that seemingly necessary plan against Wisconsin? Scrap it.

As the offense plods along – worst in the Big Ten by a wide margin – Collins only has so many options. He can alter the starting lineup and include more scoring threats, while probably sacrificing defense in the process. You can also argue that his use of Drew Crawford marked an important step in the right direction: He created shots for himself and attempted a season-high eight triples.

We can't really paint Northwestern as this team trying to hold opponents down by burning shot clocks. That was the players' style, and it was ugly. We can, though, assume that Collins will make as many changes necessary to generate some form of offense. As he should.


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