CHICAGO — After struggling offensively through three games, Northwestern (2-2) got off to a hot start against the UIC (1-3) in its 93-58 win.
Paced by Dave Sobolewski’s 17 first-half points, Northwestern went into the break with a 47-22 lead and didn’t look back. The junior guard finished the game with a career-high 25 points on 9-14 shooting from the field, including four three-pointers.
“I got some good looks to start the game and that kind of started it. I didn’t do anything special,” Sobolewski said.
After the game, head coach Chris Collins said that Sobolewski played with a quick tempo, closer to the tempo Collins eventually wants to see out of his team.
“This guy was tremendous,” Collins said. “He led us out there. What I liked most about him was that he had a good pace to his game.”
As a team, Northwestern shot 57.1 percent from the field, hitting seven threes in the opening period.
“It was something we talked about in the locker room before the game, to get off to a great start,” Collins said. “We wanted to be the more energetic team. We wanted to impose our will with our energy and our fight early. Getting off to [that great start], we had a good energy to us and we were really locked in.”
After struggling to put up 22 points in the first half of Northwestern’s loss to Illinois State on Sunday, the team looked to pick up the tempo.
“I was really proud our guys for the way they responded to Sunday,” Collins said. “The thing that I loved about my group was that the reaction to Sunday was not being down or being sad, it was anger. And they played that way tonight.”
UIC was just 7-31 (22.6 percent) from the field in the first half, resulting in plenty of opportunities for Northwestern to get out in transition.
“We’ve talked about doing that the whole year. That’s who we have to be…” Collins said. “At this level, you have to find a way to get some easy points.”
Northwestern outscored UIC 16-4 on fast break points. The 16 transition points were Northwestern’s highest output of the Chris Collins era. Northwestern’s 93 points were also the team’s most in a game dating back to a 98-55 win over SIU-Edwardsville on Jan. 20, 2011. The Wildcats came into the game averaging just 59 points per game on the season.
Northwestern’s 35-point margin of victory was also it’s largest in a true road game since 1944 in a win over the University of Chicago.
Northwestern was able to get out in transition so often in part because the Wildcats outrebounded UIC 47-34. JerShon Cobb and Sanjay Lumpkin led the Wildcats with 12 and 10 boards apiece.
Defensively, Northwestern had been solid over the opening three games, especially on the perimeter. UIC’s leading scorers, guards Marc Brown and Kelsey Barlow (a Purdue transfer), were held to just 17 points on 23.8 percent from the field. The Flames’ backcourt duo came into the game averaging 33 points on about 51 percent from the field.
“We did a really good job, I thought, on their two outstanding players: Barlow and Brown. That was a real emphasis. Those guys can put up huge games,” Collins said.
For the game, UIC was just 18-62 from the field. But there was a notable difference in the way Northwestern came out for the second half, only outscoring UIC by ten, 46-36, over the final 20 minutes.
By the end of the contest, all ten Northwestern players who saw minutes scored, with four players in double digits.
“If you look at our numbers across the board,” Collins said, “it was really a team effort.”
Northwestern’s next game is against IUPUI (1-3) on Friday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.