Right off the tip-off, Drew Crawford fled down the court, by the Texas Southern defense, and dropped in the season's first basket, just four seconds in. The tone was set for a comfortable 79-49 Northwestern victory.
Crawford led the way for NU, posting 20 points—all in the first half—while connecting on his first eight shots.
"It was just one of those days where you're feeling pretty good," said Crawford. "You try to have those as often as you can."
Crawford's 20-point first-half performance outscored the Tigers by six points. The 14 points marked the fewest Northwestern has allowed in a half since 2008.
Now a senior, Crawford will be counted on to lead Northwestern, with the program's leading scorer, John Shurna, having graduated. In his first test, Crawford delivered.
"Shurna's gone and it's on him, now, more than before," said head coach Bill Carmody.
Freshman guard Kale Abrahamson dominated the second half, chipping in 15 points in his collegiate debut. He saw increased minutes with fellow freshman Sanjay Lumpkin sidelined with mononucleosis.
Abrahamson's talented three-point stroke brought Wildcat fans flashbacks Shurna's stroke. He chuckled at the comparison.
"I've tried to stay away from comparisons like that, at this point," he said with a smile.
It was an easy cruise for the Cats in their season-opener. They opened up a 37-point lead in the second half, with 12 players seeing minutes.
Northwestern finished the game shooting an even 50 percent from the field, even as many newcomers tested the waters. Different from past seasons, the Wildcats aren't forced to survive by the three-point shot.
Making his debut, freshman center Alex Olah offered glimmers of hope at the center position, scoring seven points and pulling in seven rebounds in 23 minutes. His greatest highlight came on a three-pointer in the second half. As the center positioned himself from beyond the arc, his coach turned away in a nervous cringe.
"I don't want to get too used to it," Carmody said of Olah's three-point attempt. He's 7-feet and 275 [pounds]. I've had enough of those guys in my coaching career that like it outside, they like space."
Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire scored nine points in his Northwestern debut. Reggie Hearn chipped in with nine points, as well. Notably absent from the bench was TCU transfer Nikola Cerina, who was away from the team for personal reasons. He will return for Thursday's contest against Mississippi Valley State.
NU started the season in impressive fashion, giving headaches to its opponent.
"We had one day to prepare for this team," said Texas Southern head coach Mike Davis. "You need a week to prepare for this."