Northwestern will look to pull off another upset on Wednesday night when it welcomes 4th-ranked Michigan State to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Before practice on Tuesday, Chris Collins, Sanjay Lumpkin and Tre Demps discussed, among a number of topics, their preparations for the following day’s game as well as Sunday’s big win over Illinois.
- More Attention – The increase in buzz and media attention was palpable. Collins said he had 87 text messages waiting for him on his phone after Sunday’s win, compared to zero after the Iowa game.
- MSU Injuries – There are major injury questions for each team ahead of Wednesday’s game. Michigan State senior forward Adreiane Payne is dealing with a sprained foot, while junior forward Branden Dawson is dealing with a virus. Tom Izzo said on Monday that both were questionable for Wednesday night. However, Collins said Tuesday that his team will prepare as if both Payne and Dawson are going to play.
- Sobolewski – Collins said that junior guard Dave Sobolewski will likely miss his second game in a row with a concussion. And though Collins wouldn’t 100-percent confirm his point guard's unavailability, he spoke as if the team would be without Sobolewski on Wednesday. “We want to take our time with him,” Collins said. “I don’t like to screw around when it’s anything related to a head injury.
- Pressure – With Sobolewski likely to miss out, Collins said it was realistic to expect some full-court pressure from Michigan State. Illinois decided against pressing Northwestern until the final two minutes on Sunday, but when the Illini did do so, NU began turning the ball over and nearly threw the game away. Collins took responsibility, saying it was something they hadn’t worked on much, but said his team will be more prepared next time around.
- Tempo – Collins on tempo: “I want to be able to opportunistically run, but I want to be able to manage the possessions, run our offense.”
“We have a hard time scoring a lot of points, so it’s not going to be a good recipe to try to run in a 75-80 point game with some of these teams. We have to keep the score down. We just have to be smart about who we are.”
“I think they [the players] are more comfortable [at a slow pace] – that’s how they’ve always played – and the other thing I worry about is if we get into a track meet, we’re down to eight scholarship guys, so I worry a little bit about fatigue.”
- Olah the “Beast” – Collins gives Alex Olah all the credit for his improvement – and he also has a nickname for him: “the beast.” Collins said he tells Olah that every time the big man looks in the mirror, he should call him self a “beast.” He also tells him “don’t tell me you’re a beast unless you’re going to act upon it.” “It’s about a mindset,” Collins said. “We needed to get his confidence up, and finally now it’s getting there.”
- Olah Shooting Threes – Collins said he is comfortable with Olah taking jump shots. “It can’t be all he does,” Collins said, but he said Olah has a good touch and it’s a shot that he can make.
- Demps – As per usual, Tre Demps was the first player out on the court, well before practice began. Demps has worked as hard as anybody on this team to improve his game, and the results have been evident.
- Demps’ Role – Collins said Demps will continue to come of the bench, but play starter’s minutes – and Demps again reiterated that he prefers his bench role to a potential starting role.
- Post-Illinois Celebrations – Collins: “I want [our guys] to have fun. I want them to enjoy successes. You get down when you lose, and it’s really tough, so when you do do something really well, we want to enjoy it.”
“There’s so much pressure nowadays on [college] athletes; guys are scrutinized, everything is gone through with a fine-tooth comb. When you do something good, if you don’t enjoy your successes, you’re going to wear out pretty quickly.”
- Back Down to Business – “It felt like a weight was lifted off of us,” Sanjay Lumpkin said regarding the win over Illinois. But now the focus is on beating Michigan State. “We gotta expect it [a win], that’s the only way it will happen,” Lumpkin said. Collins and Demps also made it clear that the team had moved on, and that they were focused on Wednesday. Collins said his team would use the Illinois win as a confidence-builder moving forward.
- Lumpkin’s Tooth – Lumpkin chipped a tooth diving for a loose ball in the first half of the Illinois game, but as of Tuesday afternoon, his smile is back intact. Lumpkin got the tooth fixed Tuesday morning, and said he didn’t even consider foregoing the procedure and leaving the chipped toot