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Halftime Thoughts: Northwestern 47, UIC 22

Northwestern leads UIC 47-22 at halftime. Here are some thoughts on what is likely the Wildcats' best half of the season thus far:

-       Northwestern came out aggressive in every way possible. It started on the defensive end, as Northwestern gave UIC no room to breath and forced almost exclusively tough shots. The Flames couldn’t hit anything, and off of nearly every UIC miss, Northwestern looked to push the tempo. Dave Sobelewski, coming off a few subpar games, was particularly aggressive – sometimes to a fault – but he and Cobb did a great job getting open jump-shots and layups in transition early on, both for themselves and teammates.

-       Sobelewski’s play in the first half tonight has been miles better than what we saw from him in the first three games. He’s been able to penetrate and get to the rim fairly consistently. It has to be said that this is a rare matchup for him, in that he’s quicker than the man guarding him, but nonetheless, he’s found an offensive rhythm that we’ve yet to see from him before tonight.

The junior captain has also found his stroke from outside. He’s 4-6 from beyond the arc, has 17 points, and overall, looks like a totally different player. If there’s one reason that the Wildcats have 47 points at halftime, it’s certainly been his play, particularly on the offensive end.

-       After the opening 6 minutes that were played at a frantic pace, the opportunities to run were minimal, so the Wildcats set up their half court offense and had moderate success doing so. One big positive was the three point shooting: Northwestern hit 4 of their first 6 triples, and though they cooled off for a stretch in the middle part of the half, they’ve had a multitude of open looks and finished 7-12. Getting this looks will be key to NU’s offensive success this season.

-       Late in the half, Northwestern had a lineup of Sobolewski-Tre Demps-Drew Crawford-Kale Abrahamson-Nathan Taphorn on the floor. The Flames tried a full court press, and the Wildcats exposed them, breaking the press and starting a break that concluded with Taphorn dishing to Abrahamson for a corner three.

-       Yesterday at practice, Abrahamson said that against Illinois State, Northwestern played poorly on both offense and defense at the same time for long stretches, and that that was unacceptable. In the first half tonight, Northwestern has had a strong presence on at least one end at all times. When UIC put in a few consecutive buckets, the Wildcats had an answer every time on the offensive end. When they went cold on offense, they clamped down defensively and retained their sizeable lead.

-       This is probably the best the Northwestern has played all season, but it’s important to put it in perspective. This is a weak UIC team, and certainly one that Northwestern should be beating. However, the 25 point margin is impressive.