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Loyola (MD) point guard R.J. Williams makes season debut tonight

Jan 17, 2013, 5:18 PM EDT

NCAA Basketball Tournament -  Loyola v Ohio State Getty Images

With a record of 4-2 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play, the defending tournament champion Loyola (MD) Greyhounds find themselves two games behind first-place Niagara (5-0) in the loss column entering their game tonight against Marist (7:30 p.m.).

One thing that’s been missing for Jimmy Patsos’ team thus far has been a “true” point guard, with combo Dylon Cormier handling many of the duties and forward Anthony Winbush leading the team in assists with an average of 2.5 per game.

But that will change this week as sophomore point guard R.J. Williams, who was suspended for the first 18 games of the season due to a violation of team rules, makes his debut against the Red Foxes. Williams did practice with the team while being suspended.

“R.J. Williams has never left our program, he’s been great. He will come off the bench because we have our starting lineup,” said Patsos during the MAAC’s midseason conference call last week.

Williams started 29 of the Greyhounds’ 33 games last season, and while the averages of 4.0 points and 2.6 assists per game won’t turn heads his impact should not be ignored. With Williams on the floor Cormier will be able to operate off the ball more than he has to this point in the season, which in turn makes Loyola a tougher team for opponents to defend.

In their last two games, an overtime win over Fairfield and a loss at Rider, Loyola averaged just 8.5 assists while racking up an average of 14.0 turnovers. On the season the Greyhounds are averaging 10.7 assists and 12.7 turnovers per game, and their assist-to-turnover ratio (0.8) ranks sixth in the MAAC.

Niagara and Iona (4-1), the two teams ahead of Loyola in the MAAC standings, currently sit at the top of the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio while 4-2 Rider ranks dead last. If the Greyhounds are to have a shot at returning to the NCAA tournament they need to take better care of the basketball.

With the return of Williams to the rotation Loyola fans hope that he’ll be the catalyst in those efforts.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.