It wasn't the best start to the new season for the Northwestern Wildcats.
With only one senior, Alex Olah, the Wildcats knew they would have to rely on some inexperienced players as they took on the UMass-Lowell River Hawks.
Their inexperience showed as the Wildcats came out struggling from the field. They missed 12 of their first 13 three point shots and were abysmal on offense in the first half.
However, the River Hawks started out just as badly. They didn't connect on a single field goal for the first eight minutes of the game. The first half was more of an offensive implosion rather than a defensive struggle.
Despite their big drought, UMass-Lowell took advantage and led by as many as nine in the first half. They went into the locker room with a shock lead, holding a 34-32 advantage. It was a good first half for the away team as they were leading on the road against a Big Ten school. But, the second half turned out to be a different story.
After struggling in the first half, Northwestern came out of the gates firing. The Wildcats entered the second half on a 13-5 run, and they capped off their comeback with a Tre Demps three pointer. Northwestern took a 38-35 lead and did not trail for the rest of the game.
However, UMass-Lowell stayed in the game for most of the second half and got within five points with about nine minutes left. The River Hawks relied on Tyler Livingston and Isaac White, who led the team in scoring, to carry the offensive load and both played exceptionally well. White in particular was impressive as he shot 3-5 from deep. Yet, back-to-back Northwestern threes killed off the rally and the Wildcats were able to hold on to a double digit lead as they cruised the rest of the way to a 79-57 win.
Although they struggled on offense in the first half, Northwestern shot 59% from the field in the second half and were led by the 21 points and 12 rebounds of Olah, who illustrated his importance to the team. As their only senior, Olah will have to be a leader on this team both on and off the court. He played well tonight and will likely have to keep playing like this for Northwestern to go far this season. Although they are not projected to be one of the teams at the top of the Big Ten, the only way they'll make noise in the conference is if he can perform to the maximum.
The poor first half start was disappointing for Wildcats fans to say the least, but the second half has to be encouraging for Chris Collins and his staff. Northwestern have a long way to go, but bouncing back after a first half of struggles is a good sign for the young Wildcats.