BGSU guard Dylan Frye, right, drives to the basket against UT defenders Steve Taylor, Jr., left, and Nate Navigato earlier this year. The two teams reprise the rivalry today. BLADE PHOTO
BOWLING GREEN — It has only been a little more than two weeks since the men’s basketball teams from Toledo and Bowling Green last met.
That’s a mere blink of an eye in the six-month life of a basketball team.
Yet Bowling Green is a different team than the one the Rockets knocked off 85-73 at Savage Arena on Jan. 17.
The suspension of four players for the Ohio game one week ago has set off a chain reaction of events that turned the Falcons into a better team — at least for one game, Tuesday’s 83-72 victory against Miami.
“There weren’t any egos involved. Guys went in and just played a role,” Bowling Green coach Michael Huger said of the lineup changes brought on by the suspensions. “The guys who sat out that game have to earn back their starting positions.
“And the way those young guys played with effort and energy, well, they’ve got their work cut out for them.”
The suspensions made starters out of freshmen Rodrick Caldwell and Dylan Frye as well as sophomore Malik Hluchoweckyj, who had played a total of 17 minutes in five games before starting against Ohio.
Hluchoweckyj almost posted a double-double against the Bobcats, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds, and followed with 10 points and three rebounds in the win against the RedHawks.
“I brought him into my office before I announced him as the starter,” Huger said. “I told him, ‘The things I want you to do are give me great energy, play defense as hard as you can, rebound, and take wide-open shots or penetrate and kick when you have the chance.’
“And he did that. So how could I take him out of the lineup?”
Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk has noticed the change in the Falcons.
“I think they are playing with an unbelievable amount of energy,” Kowalczyk said. “They changed their lineup and it has given them a great spark.
“We have been a little bit banged up and had some guys sick. Now they are healthy and feeling better, so I think that is behind us."
The Rockets enter on a two-game losing streak that deserves several asterisks. One comes from the close nature of the two losses, as UT suffered a two-point setback Jan. 28 to Northern Illinois and a one-point loss Tuesday at Ball State.
That loss to the Cardinals deserves a second asterisk as the Rockets played without leading scorer Jonathan Williams, a senior who is averaging 20.4 points per game this season, because he was ill.
“We just came off of two losses, so I think we should come into this game real hungry,” UT senior Steve Taylor, Jr., said. “After two losses, we are desperate for a win."
But the Rockets probably are not as hungry as the Falcons, who have lost the past six head-to-head battles with Toledo.
“I felt it wasn’t so much what they did as much as it was what we did, and what we didn’t do,” Huger said of the loss in the first meeting. “And I didn’t think we played with much energy, especially early.
“We had to get punched in the mouth early to play with some energy. And that made it an uphill battle.”
Toledo led by 15 points less than seven minutes into the first meeting thanks in part to three 3-pointers by Nate Navigato, who made six overall and finished with 22 points.
The Falcons clawed back into the game and took a 32-30 lead on a layup by Demajeo Wiggins with 4:33 left, only to see the Rockets blast off to 13 unanswered points to end the first half with a 43-32 lead.
“It took a lot out of us to come back,” Huger said. “But we also made so many mental errors.”
Blade sports writer Brian Buckey contributed to this report.