Wednesday, January 13

Turner Returns, Buckeyes Struggle, Then Topple #6 Purude

Last time I talked about Ohio St hoops, the Buckeyes were looking good at 7-1 and ranked in the top 15, but Evan Turner had just injured his back and was expected to be out eight weeks. A lot has happened since then. Needless to say, the Bucks had their troubles without him. They dropped their next contest in a close one against Butler. With an already thin bench, Turner's injury forced Jon Diebler and William Buford both to play the full 40 minutes, and David Lighty was in for 38. Buford led all scorers in the losing effort with 20.

Three mid-majors were up next on the schedule, and allowed OSU to keep winning without Turner. Buford, not Diebler or Lighty, seemed to be the go-to guy in Turner's absence. So even without their star, the Buckeyes were still looking good standing at 10-2 going into conference play. This is where things went south. They started Big Ten play with four out of their first five games on the road.

It began in Madison, Wisconsin, where nobody wins, so the loss wasn't very surprising or disappointing, but the fact that they lost by 22 and only scored 43 points was. Next up was a trip to Ann Arbor, where the Bucks gave up a late lead and lost to those inbreds for only the second time in the last nine contests. Ohio St just couldn't find an answer for DeShawn Simms or Manny Harris, two Big Ten POY candidates.

After only four weeks on the shelf, Evan Turner returned in the next game as the Buckeyes enjoyed coming back to Value City Arena and pounded Indiana for their first conference win. Diebler's 21 led the way for OSU, but perhaps the emotional uplift from Turner's 20 minutes on the court was the big difference. Back on the road, Ohio St traveled to Minnesota, where Turner seemed to be back in full swing, playing 38 minutes and leading OSU in scoring with 19. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes were outscored by 12 in the second half, and fell to 1-3 in the Big Ten.

Last night was a thriller in West Lafayette, when Ohio St played 6th ranked Purdue. Things didn't look good in the first half, when Boilermaker forward Robbie Hummel scored 26 points, hitting 8 of 10 from beyond the arc. Eight 3's in the first half! Trailing by 8-12 throughout most of the game, Turner decided to turn things around with 4 minutes left in the game, when he went on a 10-0 run himself to tie the game. Purdue just couldn't seemed to get past Ohio St's press, and committed turnover after turnover. Ohio St went on to win 70-66, with ET playing all 40 minutes and pouring in a career high 32 points. This, from a guy who is supposed to be sidelined another three weeks.

Things aren't going to get any easier for the Buckeyes in this tough conference, as #16 Wisconsin and a surprising 12-3 Northwestern club are up next on the schedule. Thankfully, these two are back in the friendly confines of Value City, before a tough non-conference road game against #9 West Virginia. But with Turner back and playing at this level, teams need to start looking out for the Buckeyes again.


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