Abrahamson, Taphorn fight for same minutes

Kale Abrahamson and Nate Taphorn continue to fight for the same minutes, with the momentum shifting toward an increasingly productive Kale.

All offseason, everyone surrounding the Northwestern program praised Nathan Taphorn. He had an outside shot at the fifth starter's role, which eventually went to Sanjay Lumpkin, but the true freshman made an immediate impact over the summer.

Kale Abrahamson, meanwhile, figured to be the victim of Taphorn's surge — and he easily could have been. Both play similar (but not identical) roles in the evolving NU offense.

Now, the two are fighting for the exact same minutes with the momentum shifting towards Abrahamson, who has been relatively strong in limited playing time. In 15 minutes against Michigan, the sophomore made three of his four field-goal attempts and scored eight points.

Five of them came late in the first half, when NU closed with poise and entered the locker room down by only seven points. Chris Collins insisted the team concentrate on beating the Wolverines in four-minute segments, and save for a 10-0 UM run, they succeeded.

"It was a good segment for us," Abrahamson said after the game. "I was happy to get in and help with the little run in those last four minutes there."

While Abrahamson maximizes his playing time – including strong showings against UCLA and Brown – Taphorn continues to flounder in his first collegiate action. He's shooting just 32 percent from three and played only one minute in Ann Arbor.

"I think he's been knocked back a little bit, being a freshman in the Big Ten for the first time," Collins said. "It's a different level of play. It's physical."

Still, he's earned more playing time than Abrahamson this season, despite lower shooting clips, weaker rebounding and less overall production. It's been perhaps the only odd personnel move from this coaching staff — though they obviously weigh several factors in making these decisions.

But with the team in desperate need of offense, Collins is willing to reward the "energy guys," who come off the bench and help a struggling team. Recently, that's been Abrahamson, one of the lone positives from Sunday's loss.

"Everyone, pretty much every game, has been getting a shot," Collins said. "I felt like tonight, Kale gave us good energy. He came in, he got the layup on the break, he hit a couple of threes. I just went with Kale."

There's no reason, though, to fault Taphorn, at least not right now. He's by all accounts a very coachable player, and he's someone who should improve as the season progresses.

"I believe in Tap," Collins said. "He can help us, but he needs to come in with energy and be able to give us a spark when he comes in."

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