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Freshmen to receive bigger role for Rockets

02/11/2014, 10:06pm EST
By By RYAN AUTULLO BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Drummond suspension alters UT lineup today.


Jonathan Williams is expected to start for UT today in place of the suspended Justin Drummond.

Jonathan and Jordan will stand in for Justin. Maybe another J — Julius — will chip in as well.

University of Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk says he’ll use a collaborative effort in today’s rematch with Ohio to offset the 26.7 minutes averaged by suspended guard Justin Drummond.

The absence of Drummond, charged Saturday night in Toledo with driving under the influence, disrupts a concrete rotation with defined roles and presses two freshmen into the heat of an anticipated battle with implications atop the Mid-American Conference standings.

Jonathan Williams is expected to start in Drummond’s absence and also fill Drummond’s role as pseudo point guard when Julius Brown needs a breather.

Jordan Lauf, the versatile 6-foot-5 grinder averaging 15.4 minutes, will increase his time at off guard.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. for Toledo’s home response to a 95-90 overtime loss 11 days ago in Athens. This is the second of three “whiteout” games at Savage Arena, and the university will distribute 1000 white headbands to students.

Drummond will sit on the team bench, two seats from Kowalczyk, and “help us with motivation, help us with talking to guys on the bench, and bring a great deal of energy to our bench,” the coach said.

Kowalczyk did his best to paint a rosy picture on the suspension of his leading scorer, suggesting Williams and Lauf are better equipped than Drummond to handle a zone defense Ohio sometimes employs.

The situation is not unlike the first meeting with the Bobcats when Drummond fouled out at the end of regulation and Williams was thrust into a white-knuckle ride in front of 9,000-plus fans at the Convocation Center.

The Southfield, Mich., product, who committed to Toledo on the same day in June, 2012, as Lauf and Zach Garber, delivered a fine performance, burying all four of his outside shots and setting a personal high in MAC games with 14 points.

“I know my strongest attribute right now is being a shooter,” said Williams, whose 7.0 points and 16.4 minutes are tops off the bench. “I know I have to come in and give the best minutes I can to fill in for Justin Drummond.”

Drummond, a team captain whom Kowalczyk has called the best leader he’s coached, will return Saturday at Eastern Michigan. Only once has Drummond not started, when Kowalczyk brought him off the bench to strategize against Akron’s wave of talented reserves.

“I would say it’s going to be a big adjustment because Justin’s such a big part of our team,” said Brown, who played 40 minutes in the first meeting. “He’s our best leader by far. We’re going to miss him, but we’re going to pick up the slack.”

This week gives Toledo (20-3, 8-2 MAC) two chances to pick up wins against teams in the top 100 of the RPI. EMU is 75, one spot ahead of OU. The Rockets, sitting 30th, have two top-100 wins against Cleveland State (91) and Akron (95).

If Drummond’s banishment is the top storyline, Toledo’s emphasis on defensive stops is a close second. Ohio (17-6, 7-3) shot a blistering 53 percent from the field, receiving career highs in points from point guard Stevie Taylor (23) and power forward Maurice Ndour (28).

Ndour, who also pulled down 12 rebounds, said after the game he “knew the guy guarding me wouldn’t play no defense.”

If he hasn’t already done so, Kowalczyk will challenge J.D. Weatherspoon with reminders of Ndour’s insult. Taylor also delivered a jab, suggesting Brown “took a play off” in overtime that resulted in a five-second call against the Rockets.

“We’ll come out and play some good defense,” Brown said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.

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