Northern Illinois opened its Mark Montgomery era with a 96-34 loss at Purdue that seemed to meet expectations. The Huskies are young, and it will take time to grow. The Boilers are not, and they've grown plenty.
Here are four additional thoughts from NIU beat writer Ryan Wood.
1. There are glimpses: Of course, not if you look at the box score. But NIU did what it was supposed to do tonight. I mean, really, what more do you expect when a Mid-American Conference team with nine players who never played college basketball before play at Mackey Arena?
After the game, Montgomery talked about how much fun he'll have watching these youngsters grow. I can see why.
There was Marquavis Ford going coast-to-coast, jumping in the air for a contested layup, only to fool Purdue's entire defense (and WOW Mackey Arena's 14,000-plus) with a behind-the-back assist to Tim Toler. There were the Gray twins, Keith and Kevin, combining for 12 rebounds against a Big Ten frontcourt, in their first game. And, deserving of praise, there was freshman Abdel Nader never shying from shots even when they weren't falling, finishing with nine points.
Don't get me wrong. In the media room after the game, Purdue reporters mumbled about NIU being the worst Division I team they'd ever seen. I wouldn't go that far, but this was ugly. Just give it some time. The talent is there.
2. Depth the biggest concern: We've overkilled the "inexperience" discussion, because it's the season's major storyline. Now, we've found out what it means.
For most of Friday's game, only three Huskies (Toler, Nader, Aksel Bolin) were in the score sheet. There are other players who can do other things. Antone Christian may be a good floor leader when he doesn't have Lewis Jackson in his "grill." The Gray's can rebound. Ford can set others up. But NIU isn't loaded with scorers. At least not right now.
3. Nader on Purdue: For any college basketball fan, playing your first Division I game at Mackey Arena would be a tad surreal. Nader, indeed, is a college basketball fan.
But if you were expecting chills and goosebumps, you'd be disappointed
"I was kind of a bigger Indiana fan, to be honest with you," Nader said.
Nader wasn't blown away, but he did admit his first game was special.
"It was pretty crazy to actually be here," he said.
4. Really about Hummel: ROBBIE HUMMELLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! returned to the Boilermakers' lineup tonight, and 14,000-plus swooned in Mackey Arena.
All kidding aside, for anyone who isn't a NIU fan, tonight was all about Hummel's return to the lineup. The senior missed last season with a torn ACL, and probably was the missing piece for a potentially strong national title contender.
"I was happy to see Robbie Hummel come out," said Montgomery, who knows Hummel well from his days at Michigan State. "He definitely got them started."
Hummel left no doubt he was indeed back, scoring a game-high 21 points in 20 minutes. He shot 8 of 13 from the field, 5 of 7 from behind the three-point line.
The senior didn't rebound much, finishing with just one. But he didn't need to.
"I wasn't really looking to do that," Hummel said. "I was just looking to get back out there, to kind of, I guess, get back in the flow of playing again. The guys did a good job of finding me when I was open. I thought it was a great team effort tonight, and I think we'll build on this."
– Ryan Wood, @rwood_DDC on Twitter, email@example.com