After a flat start, Northwestern turned things around in the second half, pulling away from UMass-Lowell 79-57. The Wildcats' offense came alive in the final 20 minutes, as they finally found their stroke from deep and got a standout effort from true freshman Aaron Falzon. The fact that Northwestern had to press in the second half against supposedly such an inferior opponent was discouraging, but the Wildcats got the season-opening win nonetheless, showing their superior quality in the second half.
- Northwestern's opening 20 minutes or so were atrocious, especially from a shooting perspective. There's no other way to put it. Here are the details from the first half in all their glory:
- The Wildcats shot 1-for-13 from three-point range (7.7 percent) in the first half, and at one point were 0-for-11, with most of them being good looks. On the other hand, UML shot 5-for-13 from downtown.
- The Wildcats shot 12-for-35, good for a measly 34.3 percent. UML shot 11 for 24, which is over 45 percent.
- Northwestern was 7-for-16 from the free throw line, including 1-for-5 from Joey Van Zegeren. That's really, really bad, and something that must improve going forward.
- Northwestern's only sign of life in the first half was a put-back dunk from Scottie Lindsey, and even then, he got a technical foul for hanging on the rim too long.
- Overall, the team looked disjointed on offense in the first half, often force-feeding the ball to Olah from bad angles or on telegraphed passes. This resulted in just one turnover in the half, but that number could have been much higher, as the River Hawks barely missed on a lot of bad passes.
- Despite being the tallest person on the court by four inches, Olah failed to get going in the first half. The River Hawks did a good job of rotating to double the Romanian in the post, and both he and his teammates were slow to recognize it. But in the second half, he was much improved, getting the ball early and in good position before he could get double-teamed.
- We already wrote on this, but Northwestern will really miss Vic Law's athletic ability. His absence will force Nate Taphorn to step his game up and Falzon to grow up in a hurry. But...
- Aaron Falzon grew up fast. Like, really fast. In his collegiate debut, the Newton, MA native shot 8-for-11, including 4-for-6 from three. His ability to space the floor will be key this year.
- Halfway through the second half, Scottie Lindsey had only played 12 minutes, yet had the highest usage rate on the team. It was surprising to see the sophomore playing so little, especially considering Law's injury. He finished with 21 minutes, but a significant portion of those came in garbage time.
- A positive for Northwestern was the second half, when the hosts' guards started to get penetration into the lane. The ball movement was more crisp, the tempo was better, and the offense, hence was more efficient. Overall, the Wildcats got into their offensive sets early, something Chris Collins emphasized this offseason, and Northwestern never had any troubles with the new 30-second shot clock.
- Another major positive was that Northwestern proved it was the far superior team in the second half while showing its potential upside. The Wildcats shot 17-for-29 in the second half and knocked down eight three-pointers. Olah began to dominate in the post, en route to a 21-point, 12-rebound effort. The shots started falling. The defense looked quicker, and the Wildcats proved that they're just a better team. Although that's not saying much against a team like UMass-Lowell, it was very encouraging to see how this team plays when it's firing on all cylinders.
- The student section was awesome. It was far above standard for most games, let alone a Friday night non-conference game against a little-known opponent. (To all student readers: Please keep coming)
- Overall thoughts? A bad first half was quickly overcome by the shooting ability of Falzon and the fact that no one man could really contain Alex Olah. If Northwestern plays like it did in the first half, it'll be a long year. If Northwestern plays more like how did it did in the second half, there are plenty of encouraging signs moving forward.
Here is the minutes breakdown for Northwestern:
Demps 36, McIntosh 36, Ash 2, Lumpkin 24, Falzon 22, Lindsey 21, Taphorn 14, Olah 30, Van Zegeren 10, Skelly 4, Hall 1.
It's important to note, though, that Falzon, Taphorn and Lumpkin all had four fouls. Taphorn picked up his second five minutes into the game, and Falzon picked up his fourth with more than 10 minutes left in the game.