Call it a Big Ten bias. Maybe Northwestern’s nemesis. But, at this point, it seems far-fetched to say that a string of questionable calls against the Wildcats is a coincidence.
A 69-67 home-court loss to Ohio State on Thursday marked the third time in four games that the Wildcats were victimized by highly questionable, game-deciding calls.
With the Wildcats (10-9, 1-5 Big Ten) trailing 63-60 and 2:44 left, the officials had ruled that a layup by Tre Demps was blocked by Ohio State guard Shannon Scott. But a replay revealed that the ball clearly hit the backboard before Scott touched it, which should have been goaltending.
Collins was irate and pleaded with the officials during a timeout seconds later, but said that he received no explanation. He was equally upset after the game.
On the ensuing possession by the Buckeyes (15-5, 4-3), D’Angelo Russell (33 points on 12-for-17 shooting) hit a three to put them up by six.
Collins said he would not submit the play to the Big Ten, calling it a “waste of time.”
“Is that what is was, a block?” Collins said. “Because I don’t know who answers to this stuff. Somebody’s got to be held accountable.
“I saw everything you guys saw. So somebody’s got to be held accountable for it. I know it’s not going to be me.”
Sure, officials make mistakes.
But Collins’ emotional outburst clearly reflected his pent-up anger from a number of questionable calls that have gone against his team lately.
In a loss at Michigan on Saturday, with Northwestern down one and 4:16 left, an and-one call in favor of Alex Olah was reversed to a travelling violation. A replay failed to reveal that Olah had traveled. On the ensuing Michigan possession, Zak Irvin hit a three to put the Wolverines up four.
On Jan. 11, Northwestern led by two at Michigan State with 19 seconds remaining when Wildcats forward Vic Law was called for a foul on Denzel Valentine. Valentine hit both free throws to send the game into overtime and Michigan State eventually won.
Northwestern’s record of futility is well-documented. The other three programs who saw the calls go their way are perennial contenders for the conference title.
“We’re playing great,” Collins said. “That’s what I’m saying. I feel for our guys, because it’s a tough thing to keep going to the well when you’re not getting the results you deserve.”
There’s clearly an inequity in the way the officials have treated the Wildcats late in games. But Northwestern also has made its share of mistakes that has cost the team close games in the last two weeks.
In the last minute against Ohio State, JerShon Cobb missed a three and Scottie Lindsey and Demps missed layups. Any of those plays could have changed the complexion of the game.
“As much as you want to forget about it, we’re playing better and better basketball every time we go out,” Demps said. “It’s a play here and there. Obviously we’re not going to get a lot of the 50-50 calls.”