EVANSTON -- Northwestern moved to 7-1 on the season after having little trouble with the SIU Edwardsville Cougars at Welsh Ryan arena on Saturday in a 81-56 victory.
The Cougars were able to keep the game close in the first half, trailing by only nine heading into the break, thanks to a poor shooting performance from the Wildcats. In the second half, however, Northwestern shot much better and was able to open up its lead en route to a 25-point victory.
Cougars' center Yemi Makanjuola fouled out with 10:48 left in the second half, and after that the Wildcats were able to capitalize off of the big man's absence by outscoring the Cougars 25-16 to finish the contest. Makanjuola struggled guarding Northwestern's big men for most of the day, as Alex Olah ultimately finished with 21 points, tying a season-high. Aaron Falzon was right behind him as he finished with 17 points, while Bryant McIntosh added 11 points on the day and turned in a team-high 8 assists.
Three major takeaways
1. Alex Olah carries the offense
Olah was the anchor for Northwestern's offense in the first half, starting out strong with 12 points in the 12 minutes he played. The Cougars' defense struggled to defend the pick and roll early on, which Olah was able to capitalize off of. Northwestern's guards also made an effort to get Olah the ball in the paint where he was able to utilize his size advantage (SIUE doesn't have a played listed over 6-foot-11 on the roster) and excellent touch around the rim. Olah also added eight rebounds and finished the day with an offensive efficiency rating of 23. This improved performance from Olah will be something that the Wildcats will be looking to see consistently in their upcoming games, especially as they head into conference play starting at the end of the month.
2. Wildcats struggle shooting early, improve in the second half
The Wildcats were able to get open looks for most of the day and their shots started to fall in the second half. Northwestern shot just over 38 percent (12-for-31) from the field in the first half and struggled from behind the arc, going 2-for-10 with both threes coming from Falzon. Much of the offensive production came from Olah down low or from free throws. It was a completely different story in the second half as Northwestern shot 18-of-27 (66.6 percent) from the field and 7-of-12 on threes.
3. Aaron Falzon turns in solid performance
Falzon had appeared to be cooling off after a hot start to the season, averaging just five points over the Wildcats' last 5 games; however the true freshman was able to bounce back against SIU Edwardsville as he hit five of Northwestern's nine threes and scored 17 points, the most he's had since his first game of the season against UMass Lowell. Falzon came out strong to start the second half as he scored nine of the Wildcats' first 11 points, which helped the Wildcats open up their lead after leading 35-26 at the half.