Five Thoughts: Northwestern-UIC

Some scattered notes from Northwestern's decisive win.

— Drew Crawford was exponentially better when his teammates produced. The senior only attempted eight shots – five of which he made – in the decisive victory. Better, he attempted six free throws, which equaled his season total to that point. New age college basketball will encourage aggressive slashers, making it a positive sign that Crawford attacked the rim and drew contact. He's been the secondary option throughout his career; as the lone star he'll face an adjustment process. Yesterday's game, with an efficient 18 points and six rebounds, looked like his signature game.

— Kale Abrahamson gave the Wildcats even more solid minutes. I pointed out during the game that this wouldn't show up in the box score, but Abrahamson had a quiet, significant outing. On one play, I counted him setting seven screens — putting great effort into each movement. He also made solid defensive plays, which, although against UIC, added a greater element to his game. He's also earning more praise and attention than freshman Nate Taphorn, who had appeared to unseat him on the depth chart. That meeting with Chris Collins likely changed the trajectory of his career.

— NU's "team rebounding" concept was on full display Wednesday. The Wildcats doubled their opponent's rebounding total – 37 to 18 – but demonstrated enhanced effort in that regard. Sanjay Lumpkin, who I think is the team's second best player, takes boards with ferocity. Then, guys like Crawford and Jershon Cobb are adding rebounds. Without many so-called "big men," the Wildcats are finding that they need to compensate with versatile wings. Collins talked about it this offseason; the team is following through.

— JerShon Cobb was at the center of NU's defensive effort to stop Kelsey Barlow. He succeeded, showing why he's the second best defender — and why he's a different, improved player this season. Barlow flailed around for 27 difficult minutes, scoring only 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting. The team also smothered UIC's top scorer, Marc Brown, who missed all six of shots from inside the three-point line. Cobb will be tasked with guarding some of NU's tougher individual opponents. He appears more than ready for the challenge.

— Things I didn't like: Nikola Cerina continues to make some boneheaded plays. It should be noted that he landed in Bill Carmody's doghouse on a repeated basis. Tre Demps looked sloppier than usual handling the ball — and I'm not buying his 13 garbage time points. I like Alex Olah's fire and passion, but not the fouls that keep leading him there. And I'm still not convinced this team can finish well enough around the basket. Otherwise, it was a great and convincing win for Northwestern.

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