For the first six or so minutes of Northwestern's win over Sacred Heart on Monday night, the Wildcats let the Pioneers hang around. With 14:19 left in the opening period, Northwestern led by just three at 14-11. But then, over the next nine-and-a-half minutes, the Wildcats used a 20-6 run to blow open the game en route to a 103-67 victory.
Despite remaining unranked and losing votes in the AP and Coaches Polls, Northwestern now sits at 11-1, the program's best start to a season since the 1982-1983 season.
The Wildcats were led by center Alex Olah, who used his size advantage to rack up 21 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes. The senior also eclipsed 1,000 career points in the game. Since scoring just 17 points over a three-game stretch against Missouri, New Orleans and Virginia Tech, Olah has turned it up. In the last five games (against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Chicago State, Mississippi Valley State, DePaul and Sacred Heart) Olah has averaged 17.2 points per contest.
Olah was joined in leading the scoring column by Tre Demps, who added 17 points of his own.
The Wildcats finish up the non-conference slate following a holiday break as they welcome Loyola (Maryland) on Dec. 27. The Greyhounds currently sit at 1-8 with a matchup against Fairfield on Tuesday.
Northwestern continues to be one of the best teams in the country in assist rate. Coming into the night, the Wildcats had the 11th-best rate in the country at 67 percent according to KenPom. That number should rise after NU assisted on 30 of its 36 field goals against Sacred Heart. A big part of that is the focus on getting the ball to Olah down low. His post touches inflate those numbers. But another aspect of it is Northwestern's constant ball movement. Northwestern's been flipping the ball from side-to-side without much hesitation, forcing the defense to shift, opening up driving lanes and kickouts to shooters.
Time and time again, head coach Chris Collins has repeated that this Northwestern team is a "jump shooting team." But, he's confident in his team's ability to live and die by the three. And, he should be. The Wildcats came into the game against Sacred Heart averaging 9.7 made threes per game but had just posted a 6-27 performance from deep against against DePaul. Northwestern came back from that performance by hitting 15 of 29 threes. Every player who played aside from Olah, Gavin Skelly and Charlie Hall hit a three.
Northwestern's second unit got extended minutes in the blowout over Sacred Heart. Scottie Lindsey, Jordan Ash and Taphorn all scored in double figures and Gavin Skelly and Aaron Falzon were close behind. Charlie Hall, Northwestern's only walk-on, did not put up a shot attempt in three minutes of action. Ash especially stood out and put the exclamation point on the victory with this dunk: