Alex Olah turns in career game for NU

With 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting, Alex Olah finally looked comfortable being the focus.

It took nearly five minutes for Northwestern center Alex Olah to touch the ball within the three-point line. He scored. The next time, he scored again. And everything clicked.

"Four around one" made sense on Thursday, with NU running its lone source of offense through Olah, who finished with a stellar 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

As Drew Crawford (3-of-11) and Jershon Cobb (3-of-12) labored through disappointing performances, Olah looked the part of someone who can take over games — at least on offense.

"Certainly, Alex Olah's play was a big plus," Chris Collins said after the game. "I thought he really wanted the ball, played with passion, and we needed some other guys to join him on the offensive end of the court."

Thus far in his career, Olah's progress has been difficult to judge. He disappeared for stretches of Big Ten play last year, struggling against more skilled opponents. His numbers dropped off in conference, and his immaturity was featured in the team's season ending nine-game slide.

Just last game, he was neutralized by Sandi Marcius of DePaul, a mediocre center at best. In that one, he went scoreless, attempted just two field goals and dealt with foul trouble.

But those early chances on Thursday night appeared to build his confidence. After possessions marked by 30 seconds of pointless perimeter ball movement, the Wildcats finally focused inside.

"The team just found me," Olah said. "They did a really good job of finding me under the basket, passing me the ball. Against DePaul, I didn't do a good job. I had to step up for my team."

But is it sustainable? His point totals from the past eight games: 3, 11, 2, 10, 18, 10, 0, 23. No one should expect steady numbers; those still aren't desirable from a young center.

He's still lacking defensive polish, and perhaps it doesn't help that no true-four is available for help. His rebounding also seems to be a work in progress. Regardless of the same old shortcomings, though, his outing against Wisconsin was more than sufficient. It's something that could trigger upset efforts — really what the team is playing for.

Olah said of Ann Arbor: "We have to go there with the same mindset." He was talking about the team's general confidence. This applies to his own game.

He embraced the focus, turned in his best performance and made himself an imposing offensive force. And if that continues, well, there's at least one positive.

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