— That's what Alex Olah should be doing. The sophomore center finally started to control the paint against smaller interior opponents. He had six points and two blocks in the early going — even playing sound defense inside. Olah's struggled with foul trouble early this season, but appeared to shed his lazy tendencies. He's providing an important interior presence, and with Collins leaning towards a smaller lineup in the loss to Illinois State, he needs to keep proving his worth to earn increased minutes. Thankfully for NU, Olah played more to his strengths in this first half. (Love the passion after he picked up his second foul. It's an error that shouldn't happen much more often.)
— Sitting behind Chris Collins, you can watch defensive communication in full force. In mounting an impressive early start, the Wildcats were excellent at adjusting to the UIC attack. Jershon Cobb – before picking up two fouls – hardly gave Kelsey Barlow any space. They closed out fairly well on the perimeter and did an excellent job of team rebounding. There were some occasional lapses, especially with Cobb off the floor, but this marked a significant step for the Northwestern defense. The scoreboard tells you that much. Shouts to Cobb and Sanjay Lumpkin, who combined for 15 first-half rebounds.
— When's the last time you watched Northwestern play this hard? After Olah's second foul with around six minutes left in the first half, the center was extremely emotional. When Drew Crawford landed an impressive block and an egregious foul, he seemed fired up. The intensity has carried down the line. With the awful Illinois State loss fresh in their mind, the Wildcats responded exactly how they needed to. It's been exciting to watch the execution on both ends of the floor.
— Kale Abrahamson really did earn a role with this team. After his eight-point, 17-minute performance in Sunday's loss, Collins continued to lean on the sophomore forward. Nate Taphorn – despite his obvious upside – has been understandably passive in the early season. Abrahamson's more focused on defense and on the glass. It helps that this team lacks any semblance of depth, but Abrahamson seems to be settled in with a newly established role.