Men’s Basketball: Wildcats’ defense leads rout of Fairleigh-Dickinson

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

Not many fans in Welsh-Ryan Arena had heard of Fairleigh Dickinson University, and that certainly won’t change after the Knights’ performance against Northwestern on Sunday.

The Wildcats trounced the Knights 80-53 in a game that featured an improved NU defense as well as some of the Cats’ new stars. The win also pushes NU to 3-0 so far in its early non-conference slate.

Coach Bill Carmody said he was pleased with the team’s performance, particularly its defensive efforts. Carmody noted the Cats’ main focus in practice has been their defense and the work has paid off. The Cats allowed the Knights only 14 points in the first half and headed into halftime with a comfortable 41-14 lead.

Senior guard Reggie Hearn was a huge reason for the Cats’ successful first half.

“(Hearn) came to play at both ends of the court,” Carmody said. “He got us off offensively and defensively.”

Hearn put up all 14 of his points in the first half, going 4-5 on field goal attempts and 4-4 on free throws and enjoying great on-court chemistry with sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski. 

“(Sobolewski) finds me in a lot of spots I can score,” Hearn said. “In the flow of the offense, guys are finding me in good spots where I can score.”

Hearn acknowledged Carmody’s prowess on offense and that his coach’s system was paying off.

“The offense is flowing really well,” Hearn said. “I think we’re really starting to come together as a team.”

Though Hearn was the story in the first half, the stanza featured a variety of scorers for NU. Eleven different Cats earned places on the scorecard. Senior guard Alex Marcotullio and freshman forward Kale Abrahamson both tallied 9 points after coming off the bench. Freshman center Alex Olah contributed 10 points for the Cats as well as being key for the defense.

After his performance against Mississippi Valley State on Friday, Carmody noted that Olah was moping. However, his play was much improved against Fairleigh Dickinson, something Carmody attributed to focus and attitude.

“(Olah) went out there and kept it simple,” Carmody said.

Olah also stressed the importance of putting Friday’s game behind him.

“I had to forget about that game and move forward,” he said. “It’s another day tomorrow and another chance to prove what I can do.”

Fans also got the chance to see Texas Christian University transfer Nikola Cerina in his debut for the Cats, putting up 5 points and snagging 7 rebounds in 10 minutes of playing time. Cerina’s day ended after a rough play underneath the Cats’ net sent him limping off the court. Carmody Cerina injured his ankle.

However, Cerina’s 10 short minutes showed a lot of promise.

“He looks big and plays better,” Hearn said. “Seven rebounds in 10 minutes, that’s unbelievable. He brings a lot to us in the paint area.”

The Cats didn’t know much about the Knights coming into Sunday’s game, with only a one-game scouting report of Fairleigh Dickinson’s decisive loss to Xavier. However, the Cats focused on themselves rather than the opponent and found success.

“We’re a work in progress,” Carmody said. “There are ups and downs and obstacles along the way. You can learn and get better each day.”