By: Josh Wasserman
Northwestern had a rough first half against SIU-Edwardsville Saturday afternoon, but a strong second half from NU in general and the Wildcats’ big man in particular put the Cougars away.
“The main takeaway from this game was getting Alex Olah going again,” Chris Collins said.
Olah scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds, his best line since a 21-point, 12-rebound effort in the season opener against UMass-Lowell. “I’m a senior. I have to lead this team,” Olah said after the game. “I can’t have any more games where I score four points. I need to play well and dominate the center position every night.”
Olah and Aaron Falzon carried Northwestern’s offense in the first half, as the ‘Cats shot just 38% from the field and were 2-10 from downtown (both made by Falzon). The Cougars were having just as tough a time getting the ball in the basket, as they hit just 36% of their first-half field goal attempts.
The Wildcat lead was rarely less than nine in the first half, but it never felt like NU was in control. Tre Demps had a difficult half, converting on just one of his six shot attempts, while Bryant McIntosh made only one of his four efforts.
Late in the first half, Falzon started heating up, hitting two three-pointers with a little over four minutes to go. His stroke carried over into the second half, as he drained his next three long-range attempts, giving him a career-high five triples and the Wildcats a 16-point lead.
The Northwestern lead did not drop below twelve for the rest of the game. Olah put up nine more points in the last twenty minutes, and Nathan Taphorn chipped in nine of his eleven points in the second half on three three-pointers.
The Wildcats shot 58% from three-point range and 67% from the field in the second half, built a comfortable lead, and gave Demps and McIntosh much needed rest.
Northwestern enters finals week with a 7-1 record, and Coach Collins says the team’s lone loss to North Carolina was a turning point. “After that game, in the locker room I saw a team that believed they could be good,” he said. And if Olah has really found his groove, this team might be even better than Collins thought.