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Hearn sees Northwestern’s improvement in victory over Farleigh Dickenson

Northwestern center Alex Olah had 10 points nine rebounds two assists two blocks Sunday. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

Northwestern center Alex Olah had 10 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks Sunday. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: December 20, 2012 6:26AM

Northwestern senior Reggie Hearn already has seen a difference in his team during its three-game winning streak, including the 80-53 victory Sunday against Fairleigh Dickinson at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

‘‘Compared to last year, our defense and rebounding are better,’’ said Hearn, who led the Wildcats with 14 points, all in the first half.

‘‘I wanted to work on that, and you can see that in our team. It should continue for us.’’

The Wildcats held the Knights (0-2) to 14 points in the first half. It was the second time in three games an opponent was held to 14, and it gave coach Bill Carmody another chance to spread playing time among his veterans and newcomers.

‘‘It’s a work in progress,’’ Carmody said. ‘‘We have veteran guys, but we bring in the other guys. There will be ups and downs, but it’s, what can you learn?

‘‘I like the energy. It’s not a five- or six-man rotation. If guys aren’t feeling it, we can bring in others. I think that will help us down the road.’’

With a 41-14 halftime lead, Carmody turned to five of his newcomers to share much of the last 20 minutes, including 6-9 redshirt junior Nikola Cerina, who had five points and seven rebounds in 10 minutes.

But Cerina injured his right ankle with 5:49 left and was helped off the court.

‘‘I hope it’s nothing serious because he needs minutes,’’ Carmody said. ‘‘He hasn’t played in a year and a half.’’

While the bench contributed 36 points, Carmody was pleased with a good effort from the freshman he had in the starting lineup, 7-foot center Alex Olah.

He rebounded from a sluggish effort Thursday against Mississippi Valley State with 10 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 16 minutes.

‘‘I told him at our shootaround, ‘Let’s get rid of that game the other night,’ ’’ Carmody said. ‘‘I said it because I thought he was moping. Go out and get tough, and he did a heck of a job.’’

The Knights were led by junior forward Mathias Seilund’s career-high 16 points, but senior scoring leader Melquan Bolding was held to 12 points, three below his average.

The Wildcats (3-0) had 24 assists on 33 baskets (33-for-70, 47 percent) and committed only eight turnovers.

They outrebounded the Knights 50-34 and held them to 37 percent shooting (23-for-62).

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