EVANSTON--Almost a week after his team's most lopsided loss of the new season, Chris Collins was optimistic at practice on Friday as he spoke to members of the media about Sunday's game in East Lansing against Michigan State.
Collins, a few days removed from NU's 81-58 drubbing at the hands of Wisconsin, gave high praise to Michigan State's star senior point guard Travis Trice, who scored 25 points for the Spartans in a road win last night against the Iowa Hawkeyes. He also discussed what went wrong in the Wisconsin loss and talked about Vic Law's promise and potential as well as the importance of staying positive.
He also discussed how the Wildcats need to reach the high 60s in points if they are going to be a competitive team in the Big Ten, considering their defense is as stout as it usually is.
Travis Trice- When asked about Michigan State, Northwestern's opponent this weekend, Collins was very flattering, complimenting the Spartans' offensive attack as well as going in-depth about Trice, who is tied with Denzel Valentine as MSU's points per game leader. "I've always been a big fan of Trice," Collins said. "He's always kind of overshadowed by [Keith] Appling and [Gary] Harris as the guards. He's very smart, a coach's son, makes a lot of heady plays and can really shoot the ball. Obviously, last night [in the win at Iowa] going 7-for-8 [from three] is probably as good as it can get...He knows it's his time. The last couple of years he has played a secondary role...and now it's his time to step up and he's doing a great job."
Michigan State's strengths- Collins also described why MSU has been so good in recent seasons, attributing the Spartans' success to their ability to get out in transition and score points off those fastbreaks. "The one thing they do is get a lot of threes in transition," Collins said about Tom Izzo's team. "They're probably as good [a team] as there is in the conference at getting the ball up the court really quickly and that forces you to make really quick decisions."
Key to NU's Big Ten success- He was also asked about what specific attribute was the key to NU's surprising success in conference play last season. To this, Collins said the defense was what allowed them to control so many Big Ten games and finish them off with wins. "Obviously, our defense was terrific," Collins said with regards to what his team needs to focus on to be successful. "It kind of all mirrored the same blueprint...Let Tre [Demps], Drew [Crawford] and JerShon [Cobb] carry us home at the end." He said how games against talented conference teams this season will have to start with good defense and move on from there.
JerShon Cobb's injury- Collins discussed how Cobb's various injury problems have hurt the team in multiple facets, both on offense and defense. "JerShon being out has hurt in that regard," Collins said. "You take out a guy who averaged almost 13 [points] a game last year...You'd thought you would be able to get that mid-double figure production from JerShon and that just hasn't been there." He also said how Alex Olah "needs to get back in double figures" in terms of scoring for NU to be solid on offense.
Vic Law- NU's highly touted freshman also came up in the press conference. Collins talked about what he expects from Law going forward and how he thinks he can develop into a really good player. "He's got to get some energy points," Collins said. "He's struggled a little bit with his jump shot...but we would like to see him get out and run a little bit, get on the offensive boards...part of that too is strength. For him, the physicality at this level is a big jump from what he dealt with in high school."