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Stats: Northwestern's offense changes for the worse at the ends of games

Northwestern's shot distributions and field goal percentages are different at the ends of games.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern played a lot of good basketball on Sunday in East Lansing, but coming out of the game, one of the major talking points was Chris Collins' end-of-game strategy.

Following the game, I wrote about how 'hero ball' doomed the Wildcats, and how late in the game, they deviated from what had been successful for them for nearly 40 minutes.

In the postgame press conference though, when Kevin Trahan asked Collins about altering the offensive strategy late in the game, Collins got a bit defensive. He even speculated that Kevin had been "seeing a different game," and maintained that NU stayed in attack mode.

However, the data show that Northwestern's offense does change.

First of all, the types of shots Northwestern gets change. Overall, NU takes 31 percent of its shots at the rim (within five feet of the basket). But in the final minute of regulation and in overtime, that number falls to around 20 percent, as opposed to 41 percent from mid-range.

Charts courtesy of ShotAnalytics.

And it should come as no surprise then that the Wildcats' field goal percentage plummets too. Collins' team shoots 43 percent overall with a 49 percent effective field goal percentage. But in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime, those percentages drop to 32 and 38 percent respectively. In the final minute and overtime, they fall even further to 28 and 31 percent.

Of course, there are some reasons to be skeptical of the data. The sample size is relatively small, and the final minute of games is often time for desperation 3-pointers, which could skew shot distributions. Players are also human, and they get tired. But that doesn't explain the spike in mid-range shots rather than 3-pointers. And additionally, a quick comparison to other teams reveals that NU's offense does indeed drop off more than others toward the end of the game. It seems clear that this is a real trend rather than merely something we're over-analyzing based on one example.