It was a sloppy and sluggish start for Northwestern, but that's part of the growing process for a young team. Following a 69-50 victory over Delaware State, head coach Bill Carmody conceded his Wildcats still have work to do.
"It's not perfect," said Carmody. "But it's going to get better, I think."
Out of the gates, Northwestern missed open layups and was careless with the basketball. Carmody was visibly frustrated, and had a short leash for his bench players. Mike Turner, Tre Demps, and Kale Abrahamson totaled just 21 minutes. Only Turner contributed to the scoring, posting six points.
Instead, Carmody rode his starters and sixth man Alex Marcotullio. Senior forward Drew Crawford led all NU scorers while playing the entire game. Dave Sobolewski followed behind with 14 points while Reggie Hearn and Alex Olah also posted double-figure scoring totals.
The man with the answer was Sobolewski. With the Wildcats not holding a lead in the game's first 10 minutes, the sophomore point guard charged to the open rim with a fastbreak layup, putting his team in front. Minutes later, Sobolewski connected on a deep three-pointer to give Northwestern comfort.
Delaware State charged back in the second half with an 18-6 run. Northwestern's lead was down to a single-digit margin. Again, it was Sobolewski providing the punch, drilling a length three-point shot. The Wildcats never looked back.
"He comes through in the clutch and he's a competitor," Carmody said of Sobolewski. "He gets the ball to the right guys. He's not afraid to tell people what to do, including the coach. You need him out there."
Hearn was also used as a key contributor. He connected on three field goals from beyond the arc, helping to hold off the feisty Hornets.
"There are good players on every [opposing] team," said Carmody. "You have to have a guy that can stop them."
Northwestern was able to adjust its offensive strategy to counter its attack.
"The big thing was the way we were able to move as a team," said Crawford. "We were able to move the ball. Our hard cuts really did it for them in that defense. "
A much cleaner effort will be needed moving forward, as Northwestern travels to Texas for the South Padre Island Invitational. TCU poses a stiffer test that what the Wildcats have seen thus far.
A brief migration from Evanston could bode Northwestern well, offering the chance to bond as a team. The Cats will enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together on Thursday then take the court for a challenge on Friday.
"We're ready to go," said Sobolewski. "Our nonconference schedule has been harder than it's ever been here. We look forward to start seeing some of those tougher teams."