EVANSTON-In Northwestern's final home game before heading to Las Vegas, Chris Collins' squad rode Alex Olah and his 18 points to a 72-59 win over Gardner-Webb.
Here, then, are WildcatReport's rapid reactions as the Cats improve to 4-2.
Did you see that? Nate Taphorn's dunk. Before this play with 12 minutes remaining in the game, Taphorn hadn't hit a two-point shot all season. He changed that emphatically. The freshman received a slick pass from JerShon Cobb along the left baseline, took a drop step and slammed it home with two hands while getting fouled. The normally mild-mannered Taphorn unleashed a yell and celebrated with his teammates. He then drained the free throw to put Northwestern up 48-35.
Offensive player of the game: Alex Olah. The sophomore was dominant down low against the smaller Gardner-Webb defenders. Whether he was rolling to the basket for a layup or tossing up a soft baby hook, Olah was the most efficient offensive player on the floor for Northwestern. He finished with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Whenever the Wildcats really needed a bucket, he was the one to provide it.
Defensive player of the game: JerShon Cobb. For the majority of the game Northwestern played a 2-3 zone which made it tough for a single player to stand out defensively, but Cobb still managed to get himself noticed. He showed great awareness and got his long arms in the passing lane on several occasions, finishing with two steals. He also grabbed eight rebounds on the night. Olah made a case with five blocks, but he still has a lot of work to improve his one-on-one post defense.
Turning point: Olah's layup with one minute remaining. Northwestern built a somewhat comfortable lead early in the second half, but the Bulldogs kept responding. The Wildcats would make it double digits, and then Gardner-Webb would cut it to six or seven. With NU up 66-59 with about a minute and a half to go, Dave Sobolewski held onto the ball for just about the entire possession before ripping a pass to a wide-open Olah, who finished from short range and effectively put the game away.
Atmosphere: Poor. Once again, the student sections were so empty that they began filling up with older fans eager to find better seats. When either team scored, it sounded like a slow golf clap after a two-foot putt from Luke Donald. This was nothing unexpected on a Monday during the last week of classes. Still, it's disappointing to see such little fan support. The loudest moment was probably when a student hit a 30-foot shot during a timeout to win free wings for a year.
Super sub: Nate Taphorn. The freshman knocked down a three in the first half and looked much more active than he had over the past few games. Coaches didn't have to beg him to shoot quite as much, either. When he was open, he put it up. He badly missed two long-range attempts, but he made up for it with the play of the day mentioned above.