Northwestern defeated TCU 55-31 in the South Padre Island Invitational on Friday. Here's our short analysis of the game.
The Good: Northwestern has a lot of young talent this year, and while that’s good for the future, it will need someone to step in this year when the freshmen are having down games. The senior leaders stepped up for the Wildcats against TCU, as Jared Swopshire, Reggie Hearn and Drew Crawford each scored in double digits and combined for 39 of NU’s 55 points. NU started the game on a scoring drought, but the seniors — particularly Swopshire — stepped up and helped the Wildcats pull away by early in the second half. It was an off night for everyone, but those three seniors found ways to get critical points, and that will be needed a number of times this year. Any time you can win on a bad shooting night, it’s a good outing, and NU got a win in that situation Friday night.
The Bad: Freshmen are going to be inconsistent — that’s just how it goes. Freshman center Alex Olah had his second straight off game, finishing with two points, five rebounds and four fouls in just 18 minutes on the floor. Olah certainly is an upgrade for NU compared to its last two centers, especially offensively. He has a good post-up game and can shoot from most places on the floor, which makes him a perfect fit for the offense. His defense has struggled at times, but he still gives NU a presence down low that it didn’t have last year. However, while Olah will do more good than harm, he’s still a freshman and he’s still going to have freshman games. But with his team counting on him, he needs to work on his consistency and keep those games to a minimum. Considering the inconsistency we’ve seen so far, it might be best to withhold at least a little judgment on Olah until we’ve seen him play a few Big Ten games.
Stat of the night: 31 — Northwestern held TCU to just 31 points, which is the lowest points total to which the Wildcats have ever held an opponent. Of course, part of that is because the Horned Frogs are a terrible offensive team — they scored 53 points against Cal Poly and 44 against Prairie View A&M. However, that’s certainly progress for an NU team that struggled defensively last year.
Up next: Northwestern will face Illinois State in the finals of the South Padre Island Invitational. The Redbirds are one of the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference — one of the best mid-major conferences — and could potentially be an NCAA Tournament team. They’re an offensive-minded team and rank fourth in the nation in points per game (91 ppg) and fifth in the nation in assists per game (20.3 apg). Senior forward Jackie Carmichael is a star, and NU’s frontcourt must find a way to contain him. That will take big games from Olah and Swopshire, defensively.