Men’s basketball: Olah’s 21 points lead Northwestern to season-opening victory

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Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Freshman forward Vic Law throws down a one-handed dunk during the first half of Northwestern’s 65-58 win over Houston Baptist on Friday. Law helped carry the Wildcats in the first half and finished with 13 points.

Huzaifa Patel, Reporter

It was a grind, but Northwestern got the job done in its season opener Friday, edging out the Houston Baptist Huskies 65-58.

Junior center Alex Olah led all scorers with 21 points, as the Cats rallied behind him to pull away from the Huskies in the second half.

NU got off to a slow start, missing 10 of its first 11 shots. By that point, the Huskies used their hot shooting to go up by as many as 10 points.

The Cats clawed back slowly, however, eventually tying the game at 25 with 3:16 left in the half. They did so mainly on the backs of freshmen Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh, who combined for 16 of the 28 points the Cats scored in the first half.

On the other hand, Olah and senior guard JerShon Cobb struggled to get in a rhythm early, shooting a combined 1-9 in the first half.

“I thought his physicality bothered Alex early,” coach Chris Collins said. “To Alex’s credit, he really responded in the second half.”

Olah agreed.

“I knew I started soft in the first half,” Olah said. “I let my team down in the first half. It was up to me to pick it up and play better in the second half.”

Cobb finally got on the board early in the half when an off-ball cut and pass from Law led to an open layup. He continued to struggle in the second half, however, finishing with just 5 points on 2-8 shooting.

“I think he missed some shots early he normally makes,” Collins said. “The kid hadn’t played a game since last February. There’s a little bit of rust. The more he plays, the better he’ll get.”

It was also a rough day for junior guard Tre Demps, who finished with 1 point on seven shots.

“When I look at the stat sheet at the end of the game, it kind of makes me smile,” Collins said. “Two of our best guys, Tre and JerShon were 2-15. I know they’re going to shoot the ball a lot better than that. If those two guys went 2-15 last year, we would’ve scored about 30 points.”

The game went into halftime with the Huskies leading 31-28. The score teetered back and forth between the two teams to start the second half.

NU finally took its first second-half lead with just over 16:19 left in the contest on a pair of Olah free throws, but the Huskies continued to battle for the better part of the second half. Senior center Ricmonds Vilde held his own versus Olah, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

The Cats started to pull away around the seven minute mark. After a Huskies bucket cut the Cats’ lead to just two, the Cats went on a 9-2 run to go up 60-51, what would prove to be their largest lead of the game.

The offense was more balanced in the second half, as Olah began to assert himself. A combination of individual moves, outside shooting and second chance points pushed Olah to a double-double on the night.

“It makes my job a lot easier,” McIntosh said regarding Olah’s strong play. “I think he did a lot better job in the second half.”

It was a solid debut overall for the starting freshmen. While the upperclassmen struggled early, McIntosh and Law carried the team in the first half.

“We’re not just a one or two player team,” Olah said. “Everybody can contribute. There are nights when players are going to play bad and others will step up. Maybe the next game at Brown, Tre is going to have 30 and JerShon is going to have 20.”

Collins shuffled the lineup throughout the game, with seven guys playing double-digit minutes.

“We play six games in 12 days,” Collins said. “We need our bench guys ready to go. It’s a big stretch for us and we need everybody healthy and ready to contribute.”

Email: [email protected]northwestern.edu
Twitter: @HuzaifaPatel95