Northwestern's season started off in comfortable fashion, as the Wildcats led by 30 over the Texas Southern Tigers in the early going and we were all able to get a good look at Northwestern's newcomers. Let's break it down in detail - I talked a bit about everybody who played, because WE DON'T KNOW WHO THEY ARE.
- For a game summary, NU started out up 6-4, but before long it was 40-9. Some of that was great offensive execution by NU, some of it was just hitting open shots, and some of it was just awful, awful basketball from Texas Southern. They went 6-for-29 in the first half, 1-for-11 from three, and that was pretty much the competitive side of the game. Same margin of victory as last year, because this team is exactly the same in every way as last year's team, literally down to the genetic code of the players on the court..
- The story was Drew Crawford, who hit his first eight shots on his way to 20 first half points. The shots were decidedly bad Drew ones - no free throws, lot of 15-20 footers, lots of contested looks - but man, he looks turned UP this year. He took a few open threes, and absolute bottoms. It was only Texas Southern, but the looks he got in that first half weren't dissimilar from the looks he'll get against other teams, but he still made them. Sustainable? Maybe. I'm sure it's because he's been working on his game, but I'll credit it to the random athletic tape he now sports on his arms.
- Crawford played until there were 12 minutes left in the game, because BILL CARMODY IS TEMPTING FATE.
- The most impressive player besides Crawford was probably Alex Olah. Again, the team was tiny, but he played strong defense, grabbed seven boards, and went 3-for-5, including a three he drilled with no conscience. (Bill Carmody was displeased.). Most impressive to me at this young point in his career was his passing: he dropped a few really classy looks to Jared Swopshire, one of which he finished. His one big bad play was bringing the ball low in the post, allowing an opposing guard to swat the ball from his hands.There's a lot to like here: one game into his career, he looks like a much more polished center than Luka Mirkovic or Davide Curletti did four years deep. He also dunked a ball, which Mirk and Davide did, what, once in four years?
- Texas Southern's Omar Strong is REALLY dedicated to his Heisman campaign. Although according to the announcers, he might win SWAC player of the year, so he's got that campaign going for him.
- The third most impressive player was Kale Abrahamson. Chips, who was supposed to redshirt, came in late in the first half, and looked skurred, turning over the ball when he hesitated in the lane and later missing a layup where he was brushed in transition, getting a foul called. Then, he started shooting. If it looks like John Shurna, shoots with a hideous SKRRRRRRRRRRRRRR like John Shurna, and bangs 25-footers with no rim like John Shurna, apparently he's Kale Abrahamson. 15 points on six shots for Kale, who might be the new three-point specialist - Alex Marcotullio's minutes might be a bit limited in his senior year, which is sad.
- I've never seen Welsh-Ryan that empty, and I've seen it empty before. Maybe it's because I've been in the crowd and it looks different on TV?
- Swop did not look too good. He had nine rebounds, but looked really out of sorts. He missed all three of his threes, and although he made some nice cuts in the Princeton that gave him some open layups, he sometime looked like he was trying to do too much. I'd settle for some rangy defense some rebounds - eight of those tonight - and veteran leadership from Swop, because he drives might not help. He made an ugly pass and took an uglier pullup that skipped the hoop on the way to the backboard, although he eventually made a defender look dumb with a jump stop and got an offensive rebound on a free throw.
- In Swop news, he took the tip, tapped it to Olah, who fed it to Drew who was driving, the second time they've run that designed play successfully. Miiiiiiight not work against teams who have real centers take the tip.
Dave Sobolewski had nine rebounds and six - six! - rebounds, as he was for once in his life the taller player in a matchup, but was 0-for-4 from the field. He got blocked three times. He's still a defensive liability, if you're wondering.
- Aaron Liberman didn't play a second. Bill Carmody does not care about Jewish people.
- Tre Demps' shot didn't look like it did in the exhibition game, missing all his threes, but he did hit a defender with a dream shake and sink a turnaround J. The other redshirt freshman, Mike Turner, generally tried to stay out of the offense but hit a 15-footer. Still not sold on him as a Big Ten center.
- Dear person/peoples who tried to emulate the Utah State "I believe that we will win" chant late in the game. No. Uh, No. No no no no no no no no no no no no.
- So Chier Ajou might not be ready for primetime yet offensively: his two main offensive touches resulted in a travel to end all travels and a shot that he BOINKED off the side of the backboard at what must've been 83 miles an hour. I want him to play big minutes, because he's the most entertaining to watch.
- Reggie Hearn looked nice on the boards as always, but only took threes. He hit half of them, two off of out-of-bounds plays, but was front rim on the rest.
- On defense, we didn't see any 1-3-1, although that might be a matter of the opponent. We saw straight man, no real switching, and it showed when Northwestern tried to defend the pick-and-roll: the guys looked a little lost on that pretty basic play, sometimes failing to show hard enough and other times showing so hard that there was no way to recover in time. That's always been a problem for NU, but if Texas Southern could figure it out before just deciding to chuck.
So that's it! Some positive indicators, although as always its tough to tell because of the opponent. My one fear is that the team will be too based on Drew Crawford come conference play, but what else is new with regards to NU sports? Mississippi Valley State is on Thursday, although I probably won't be able to watch.