Notes: Northwestern-Illinois

Pregame reading for tonight's Northwestern-Illinois matchup.

Kale Abrahamson continues to qualify as Northwestern's only "pleasant surprise." The sophomore has the exact right mentality, providing a bench spark and solid perimeter scoring. He scored nine points in 20 minutes against Iowa — and should watch his role expand from here. The best part? He's turned the ball only six times all season (less than once every 30 minutes). A suddenly reliable option, Abrahamson should probably earn starts if he continues this string of success.

— NU is starting to understand life without starting point guard Dave Sobolewski. Mentally crushed, Sobo continued to find new lows, committing four turnovers and failing to score in 14 minutes. The Wildcats are experimenting with different lineups and trying other options, including Tre Demps. Part of the same recruiting class, their careers have gone in opposite directions. Sobo struggled to the point where he was recruited over in-season, while Demps carved out his role as an aggressive playmaker.

— "It's a tough defensive conference and that's something we have to adjust to," Drew Crawford said on Friday. The team has absolutely not. Kevin Trahan of InsideNU.com made a sound point earlier about the team's recent iso-heavy offense. Though much of that falls on the team's lack of ability to generate, well, anything, his overall point stands: They haven't figured out any substantive way to attack opposing defenses. I'd say this only exposes NU's shocking dearth of offensive talent.

— It's still surprising how often Alex Olah disappears in the NU offense. Even to the naked eye, the Wildcats are finding most of their success working through Olah — who's raised by shooting percentage by 17 points this season. Couple that with his strong free throw shooting (and the lack of talent elsewhere) and it's ridiculous that he attempted only four shots on Thursday. He's far from the perfect player, but the "four-around-one" inside-out offense seems to be the most effective approach for Northwestern. If Olah can learn to rebound and defend, he'll come into his own as a Big Ten center.

Nikola Cerina's play only illuminates the importance of big man depth. Even in his 21 minutes the past two games, Cerina provided something of a defensive spark and also contributed on the offensive end. He's certainly not the most-loved guy in the locker room; that doesn't diminish his importance on the floor. It's hard to imagine Northwestern with a strong interior presence, but the coaching staff is certainly concentrated on shoring that up for future seasons.


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