After a hot start, Northwestern played a pretty average game on Monday afternoon against UIC. That was enough to beat the Flames, who had a horrid day shooting the ball, 63-46, but NU's second half effort was only passable because the visitors weren't good enough to take advantage of NU's shortcomings. Here are some initial takeaways.
- Hot start, but... -- This game followed the exact opposite pattern of many of NU's previous games. Northwestern came out firing on all cylinders, but after building early leads of 16-2 and 25-7, the Wildcats went into cruise-control a bit prematurely. After the halftime break, UIC came out as the aggressors and made the game more uncomfortable for NU than it should have been. Northwestern continues to be incapable of putting together a complete 40 minutes.
- First half defense -- Our Jason Dorow wrote Monday about a couple of the issues that have been plaguing Northwestern on the defensive end of the floor early this season. Against UIC, especially during the first 10 or 15 minutes of the game, they appeared to correct many of those. The Flames are an awful shooting team, but Northwestern took advantage of that and limited penetration pretty well.
- Rebounding -- Northwestern led at halftime 31-16, but the only reason it was even that close was rebounding. In the first half, UIC attempted 35 shots to Northwestern's 23 because the Flames cleaned up on the offensive glass. For the game, UIC rebounded over 38 percent of its own missed shots. That's inexcusable from NU's perspective.
- Playing time -- Chris Collins' player rotation continues to be confounding. In the first half, Collins used his bench a lot, and lineups that included Scottie Lindsey and Nate Taphorn had success. But in the second half, he seems committed to sticking with his preferred five of Bryant McIntosh, Tre Demps, Sanjay Lumpkin, Vic Law and Alex Olah, even when they are struggling. It would be especially nice to see Lindsey receive more meaningful minutes. More on this later in the week.
UPDATE: Lindsey apparently didn't play in the second half due to a foot injury that the freshman sustained in the first half.
- Alex Olah -- Olah dominated the game early on. And given UIC's undersized front line, he did exactly what he should have during the first 10 minutes. However, Northwestern strangely went away from its big man after that. This tendency is a trap that the Wildcats have occasionally fallen into not just this season but last season as well, and it's something that Collins and the players -- including Olah himself -- have to address. Olah finished with 17 points, but he really could have had a lot more.
- Bryant McIntosh -- McIntosh was the one consistent piece for Northwestern all game. He finished with a career high 22 points, and made just enough plays to keep UIC at an arm's length throughout the second half.
- Tre Demps -- We'll have player grades from this contest as well, but I'd venture a guess that Demps will receive another poor grade. His shot selection is irrational, and because of that, his shooting percentages suffer.