Though it was far from Big Ten competition, several important players made statements, and the Cats' group of newcomers got a chance to cut their teeth in game action. Here are five things we learned from our brief look at head coach Bill Carmody's squad.
1.) Much has been made of Northwestern's guard depth, and none stood out more than redshirt freshman Tre Demps, who flashed both three-point range (3-for-3 from downtown) and the ability to create off the dribble.
Though pegged as a point guard, Demps spent most of his time off the ball, notching 11 points and impressing with his quickness. Demps appears to have the confidence of his coaches and looks set to carve out an important role off the bench.
2.) Alex Olah's highly anticipated debut went pretty smoothly. The promising freshman center put up 12 points and nine rebounds, showing off a few nice post moves and also knocking down a three from the top of the arc.
Despite an extreme height advantage, the 7-foot Olah still occasionally had the ball knocked away from him by smaller defenders. He also looked slow-footed defensively, particularly on switches, and will need to improve in that area or risk being exposed by more athletic teams down the road.
That said, the positive outweighed the negative and Olah's offensive prowess should be a big help in the middle for Northwestern.
Though he didn't face much pressure from UChicago, Swopshire showed a solid handle and was able to get to the rim and finish, notching nine points. He also chipped in five rebounds and gives Northwestern another athletic defender.
However, Swopshire struggled with his jumper, finishing 0-4 from behind the arc and will need to improve on that clip to help the ‘Cats spread the floor against larger teams.
4.) The most physical presence on the floor was that of senior Drew Crawford, who began the game with a dunk on the first possession and was able to get his shot whenever he wanted. He grabbed eight rebounds as well and will need to play big minutes for Northwestern to reach its full potential as a team.
The Wildcats will often go as Crawford goes, and there won't be room for many off nights from their leader. Tonight wasn't one of them.
5.) It's tough to say much about Carmody's rotation just yet, but it appears certain that Northwestern will run at least ten deep to begin the season. Mike Turner was first off the bench in relief of Alex Olah, but didn't have much of a chance to get comfortable after being injured while taking a charge.
Freshman Sanjay Lumpkin looked at ease on the court and should contribute with his length and defensive ability, perhaps helping fill the void left by the suspension of junior Jershon Cobb. Figure in Demps, plus senior Alex Marcotullio and redshirt junior Nikola Cerina, who contributed a couple of three-pointers and that's a solid ten-man group.
The roles of freshmen Kale Abrahamson and Chier Ajou are less clear, and both may need more time to settle in before receiving consistent minutes. Nevertheless, this is by far the deepest team NU has had in recent years, a clear advantage in an extremely strong Big Ten conference.
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