Northwestern basketball played easily its best game of the season on Sunday afternoon, battling for 40 minutes with an outstanding Purdue team in one of the country’s toughest road environments before eventually coming up just short.
It was a fun, high-quality college basketball game that, even in a loss, inspired hope that Northwestern might be ready to turn its season around.
But that’s not what the post-game discussion was about on social media and the rest of the internet. The focus was all on comments made by NU coach Chris Collins in his press conference.
In his opening statement, Collins mentioned the free throw disparity between the two teams (Purdue shot 24, Northwestern just 5) before oddly saying that he had to “make it quick” because Dererk Pardon was getting stitches from an Isaac Haas elbow and he had to “get back there,” presumably to be with his center.
Here’s the full opening statement:
“Congratulations to Purdue. They’re a great team, it’s a really tough place to play. Thought we played really well. When you can go on the road in one of the toughest environments and get outshot at the line 25-5 and have the ball to win the game, you gotta feel good about how you played. So I’m really proud of my guys. I gotta make it quick, Dererk Pardon is getting stitches from Haas putting his elbow in his face, so I gotta get back there and — but he only shot three free throws.”
After Collins said he was open for questions, Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune asked, “Are you kidding about Dererk?”
This was Collins’ reply:
“No, he’s bleeding. Haas made a post move and put his elbow right into his mouth. But I guess we didn’t want to check the monitor for that one.”
The second part of that reply was in reference to a play in the second half where Scottie Lindsey caught Purdue’s Carsen Edwards with a forearm to the face. The play was reviewed and the referees decided that it was inadvertent and not a foul of any kind.
Here is the Haas elbow on Pardon, which probably should’ve been an offensive foul.
It’s worth watching the actual video of Collins’ presser to see his body language and tone. He doubles down on the notion of Pardon bleeding and needing stitches, which would seem to indicate that he wasn’t speaking metaphorically or sarcastically.
Here’s the thing: Pardon didn’t get stitches. He was completely okay, according to Ben Pope of the Daily Northwestern.
Really weird situation transpiring after the game here at Purdue. Chris Collins, angry about foul disparity, said Dererk Pardon was bleeding and getting stiches from an Isaac Haas elbow. But Pardon, interviewed ~10 min later, said that's false and he's fine.— Ben Pope (@BenPope111) December 3, 2017
If you watch the video I embedded above, Pardon doesn’t even miss any time. So why the hell would Collins make something like that up? It’s possible he was misinformed or being extremely sarcastic, but that seems unlikely.
Clearly, Collins was in a bad mood after the tough loss and took exception to the officiating. After making the Pardon comments, he went on to repeat the foul disparity:
Greenstein: “I know Scottie wanted the call when he drove late with 20 seconds left, did you see anything on that?”
Collins: “Guys, look at the stat sheet. 24 to 5. He got hit. Of course he did. But you’re not going to win on the road when you shoot five free throws and the other team shoots 25 and it’s the most physical team in our league. It’s tough.”
Collins has a point, to a certain extent. I thought there could’ve been calls on Purdue several times where there were none, especially on Lindsey’s potential game-tying shot.
I can understand not calling the reach by Dakota Mathias in that situation, but this is objectively a foul by Matt Haarms:
Even if you get a piece of the ball, you can’t smack a shooter’s hand like that.
At the same time, though, Collins comes off as rather petulant with his comments about the foul disparity. The refs also swallowed their whistle on the other end a few times and in general, Purdue is a team more prone to drawing fouls than Northwestern because of how frequently it throws the ball inside to Haas. The 7-foot-2, 290-pound senior shot 14 of the Boilermakers’ free throws and definitely deserved at least 10 of them. Pardon should’ve attempted more than three, sure, but not by much considering how much of his work was done from midrange jumpers.
Collins, who gave uncharacteristically brief answers and left the presser after just over 3 minutes, also mentioned the lack of a foul call against PJ Thompson on the last play of the game. “Even when they were trying to foul, they didn’t call it,” he said. “Go figure.” That one is pretty strange, just because I can’t imagine he would’ve preferred two free throws with 5 seconds left over the wide-open look from three that Bryant McIntosh missed.
Overall, Collins’ comments about the officiating are a bad look for a coach who picked up a costly technical in the Gonzaga game last March (he was obviously right about the no-call, but still). I understand being frustrated after that game, which was a brutal missed opportunity and already the Wildcats’ fourth loss, but you have to keep your composure. It will be interesting to see if the Big Ten fines Collins.
Even more baffling was the coach’s insistence that Pardon was bloodied and receiving stitches to his mouth, which was verified as untrue just minutes later.
It’s too bad that this was the lasting story from such a well-played game, rather than Pardon and Haas’s actual play on the court or Northwestern’s overall resiliency and effort. But here we are.