The Wildcats struggled to fulfill the "tempo" promise, they were owned on the free throw line, and more worrying, their point guard wasn't leading the offense.
Enter UIC, the new start, when everything looked as it should. Dave Sobolewski scored a career-high 25 points, Drew Crawford added 18 and Northwestern ran past UIC 93-58 on Wednesday night.
"Obviously, we're very thrilled with our performance tonight," Chris Collins said. "I was really proud of our guys, the way we responded to Sunday."
The process began with an excellent game from Sobolewski, whose early success sparked Northwestern. His triple with 11:53 left in the first half gave NU a 23-9 lead, forcing UIC coach Howard Moore to call a timeout — the outcome already looking decided.
It took four games for NU to shed the Princeton memories, days of drawn-out possessions and snail tempo. Tonight, the Wildcats put forth a true team rebounding effort and moved the ball with energy.
"We've talked about doing that the whole year," Collins said of the quicker attack. "That's who we have to be. We have to get out … We want to get the ball up the floor.
"Dave set the tone with that. It was the best job he's done."
Three days ago, Northwestern was embarrassed in the Illinois State loss. Against a team that lost its six top scorers from last season, NU played timid basketball and trailed 40-22 at the half.
They resorted to gimmicks, like a smaller lineup, but were still left with an embarrassing defeat. The players held meetings and watched film, refusing to let that game define their season.
"We really tried to figure out who we were," Sobolewski said.
"The thing that I loved about my group was that the reaction to Sunday was not being down, or being sad," Collins said. "It was anger. They played that way tonight."
Add last year's loss to UIC as part of this redemption game.
"We know what they did to us last year," Lumpkin said. "… That was a great win for us. We all came together."
The theme, though, felt meaningless shortly after the opening whistle. It took less than six minutes for the Wildcats to take a double-digit lead, which they never relinquished.
NU shot 57 percent in the opening frame, with Sobolewski 6-of-9, to UIC's miserable 23 percent. Jershon Cobb neutralized Kelsey Barlow, and the strong defensive effort translated to offensive success.
Motivated by last year's game and the most recent game, Northwestern discovered its ideal offense behind a career night from Sobolewski.
Not a bad bounce back.
"It's an adjustment period," Collins said. "We're in the infancy stages of who we're going to become."