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UT basketball cruises after 1st-half hiccup

12/31/2016, 12:49am EST
By By BRIAN BUCKEY BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Williams leads with 20 points; 10 different players scored at least a point


UT's Justin Roberts, right, forces a turnover from Ohio Christian's Jalen Hearn during the Rockets' victory. BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

The University of Toledo men’s basketball team closed out its nonconference slate with a 98-58 win over Ohio Christian on Friday night at Savage Arena.

Ten different players scored for Toledo (7-6) with senior Jonathan Williams leading the way with 20 points. Sophomore Jaelan Sanford added 17 points, senior Steve Taylor, Jr. added 13 points and 10 rebounds, and sophomore Nate Navigato chipped in with 10 points.

“This type of game, you want your team play with maturity and leadership,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “I really challenged our seniors. Obviously Ohio Christian is not a Division I program. It’s the only non-Division I team that we play all year. I think how you approach those games is that you have to respect your opponent and I thought our senior leadership respected them. I wanted to see us get better at our ball screen defense and get better at our turnovers and those two things happened.”

Marquis Jackson paced NAIA member Ohio Christian (5-10) with 14 points.

IN PICTURES: UT 98, Ohio Christian 58

After a hot-shooting start to the game, the Trailblazers led 23-22 with 10:04 left in the opening half. Toledo responded with a 17-0 run over the next five minutes to take a 39-23 lead and regain control of the game.

“We just had a little slow start and came out a little complacent,” Williams said. “They have a great player [Jackson] that can play in our league. He’s a great player. He got it going early, but we stayed together through that moment of adversity and got the job done.”

The Rockets led 53-29 at halftime after closing the half on a 31-6 run over the final nine minutes and 40 seconds.

Ten different players saw at least 10 minutes of game action as Toledo turned to its bench, especially in the second half.

“It’s always good when you see those guys that aren’t usually scoring, when you see them scoring,” Williams said. “The starters and the guys that normally play a lot of minutes, it means they took care of business and that’s always good.”

The Rockets finish their nonconference slate with a 7-6 record and will open Mid-American Conference play at home against Buffalo on Tuesday.

“I think we’re right where we want to be,” Williams said. “The tough schedule that we had has prepared us for MAC conference play. I think we'll be fine.”

The Rockets challenged themselves in the nonconference in hopes that it would prepare them for the rigors of conference play. Kowalczyk said there are a few games like Green Bay, Marshall and Middle Tennessee State, that he felt the Rockets should have won, but is still confident with the progress of the team leading into the MAC schedule.

“I think we are ready for MAC play and we’re looking forward to that journey,” Kowalczyk said. “I think we are healthy and we are confident and we are together. We still have to get better at some things, but I think we have gotten better over the last few games.”

Contact Brian Buckey at: bbuckey@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.

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Tag(s): College  Toledo