EVANSTON-Wisconsin gave rookie Northwestern coach Chris Collins a rude welcome to Big Ten play.
Northwestern's 76-49 loss to the No. 4 Badgers could have been much worse, however. The game had the makings of an epic rout after the Wildcats scored just 14 points in the first half, but they turned in a respectable second half to endure a defeat that could better be described as depressing than embarrassing.
Here are our rapid reactions:
Did you see that? Northwestern came out as cold as the 15-degree temperatures in Evanston and trailed 40-14 at halftime. The Wildcats shot 6-of-23 from the floor (26.1 percent), 1-of-8 from beyond the arc (12.5) and 1-for-3 from the free-throw line (33.3). And that was it offensively. Honest.
Offensive player of the game: It may seem like awarding an offensive player of the game for this debacle would be sort of like giving an honorary doctorate to a Kardashian, but Alex Olah actually earned this one. The Wildcats' big man went for a career-high 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting. He hit hooks, layups, jumpers, and -- though they didn't go head-to-head very often -- generally outplayed Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky, who finished with just nine points.
Defensive player of the game: There wasn't much to choose from in this category, either, but we'll go with Olah again. The 7-footer led the Wildcats with two blocks and also came up with one of his team's two steals. The Wildcats' 1-3-1 zone gets credit, too, for slowing down Wisconsin for a stretch in the second half.
Super sub: Well, Tre Demps is the only player off the bench who scored, so he'll have to get this honor. It was a far cry from his 23-point, MVP performance against DePaul, however, as he hit just 1 of 7 shots for four points. He also pulled down four rebounds to lead all bench players in that category.
Turning point: This one was over before many fans got to their seats at snowbound Welsh-Ryan Arena. Northwestern held a 5-4 lead before Nigel Hayes hit a pair of free throws to give the Badgers the edge they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the night. The lead got as high as 31 with 14:14 left in the second half.
Xs and Os: Drew Crawford had his second straight subpar outing, finishing with 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting. He managed to tie Olah for the team lead with six rebounds, but overall the fifth-year senior said he missed a lot of shots he should have made. Collins said after the game that Crawford and Jershon Cobb need to score between 30 and 40 points for the team to be successful. Tonight, the two combined for just 17.