Playing Through The Pain

After showcasing a smooth game during the middle of the season that has allowed him to both drive the basket and connect from beyond the arc, things have not gone so well for Evan Turner lately. As it turns out, the freshman guard has been battling a nagging injury that has affected his game.

It didn't take a certified doctor to figure out that something was wrong with Evan Turner.

As Ohio State was on the receiving end of a 53-48 road defeat at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes, one of the players standing in line to take his share of the blame was Turner. Entering the contest averaging 14.3 points in his previous four games, the freshman out of Chicago was asserting himself as a scoring threat capable of complimenting senior guard Jamar Butler.

In 32 minutes of action, Turner went 2 for 9 from the floor, missing all four of his three pointers, and finished with just four points. That total tied him for the lowest scoring output in a game since he was promoted to the starting lineup in the eighth game of the season.

Every player can have a bad game, but Turner followed up that game by playing just 14 minutes in OSU's victory against Michigan three days later and not recording a shot. Again, the 14 minutes were the fewest he had seen in a game he had started all season.

Clearly, something was wrong. As it turns out, that something was an injury he suffered to his shooting wrist. On Monday, head coach Thad Matta described it as a sprained right wrist.

And it had happened three games prior to the Iowa game.

"I hurt it versus Illinois when they played us here (Jan. 22)," Turner said. "On one of my shots I airballed it and when I hit the ground my friend (Illinois freshman guard) Demetri (McCamey) kicked my wrist. It was kind of sore, but I was still playing with it. Then versus Iowa I went up against (guard Tony) Freeman and I banged it and made it a little bit worse."

The contact between McCamey and Turner, who were high school teammates at Chicago St. Joseph's, was incidental, but it still had an effect on Turner. Although he finished with 14 points against the Fighting Illini and put up 17 four nights later against Minnesota, things quickly went downhill for Turner.

Stretching to the Penn State game on Jan. 29, Turner has connected on just one of his last ten three-point attempts (10.0 percent). Prior to that, he had been shooting 40.5 percent (15 of 37) from beyond the arc.

His teammates could tell that something was wrong.

"It's on his shooting hand and that's something that's not easy to overcome," freshman guard Jon Diebler said. "I think he was shooting the ball extremely well and then sadly he had that wrist injury and obviously it's been bothering him a little bit."

The injury has prevented Turner from taking part in his typical compliment of individual shooting drills both during and after practice. The lack of reps in practice have led to a lack of confidence during games, as evidenced by his shooting struggles.

"That led to a confidence factor, like I was more thinking about my wrist sometimes when I shot it," he said. "It would feel like it was going in or sometimes it just felt weird and I couldn't really get the full extension on it, but it happens. I think I'll be fine and the team will be fine.

"It's alright. It's still kind of sore, but it's cool."

Turner has not worn a brace on his shooting wrist during games. To treat it, the trainers have prescribed ice and rest.

It feels worst when he is releasing the ball at the top of his jump shot, but Turner said it has affected his game in other areas as well.

"At first it hard to really dribble and really get away and use getaway moves," he said. "I've just played through a little bit of pain."

With Turner hampered by his injury, Diebler has managed to help pick up some of the scoring slack. Although he was scoreless in the loss to the Hawkeyes in 26 minutes off the bench, Diebler has scored 14 points in each of the team's last two games. In addition, he has consistently been singled out by his coach and teammates for his contributions on the defensive side of the ball as well.

It was Diebler who gave way to Turner in the starting lineup after the first seven games of the season, and his increased production – he has hit on six of his last 13 three-point attempts (46.2 percent) – has led to speculation that he could be pushing his classmate and friend to break back into the starting five.

"I think Jon is playing very solid right now," Matta said. "I've been very, very happy with what he's bringing to the table. Obviously making shots is something that is very important for Jon, but I like his overall demeanor and the job he's doing."

For his part, Turner said he is not concerned about who starts as long as the team does well.

"It's just competition every day for all of us," he said. "We all come out and try to go hard and get better and do more for the team. Diebler's been shooting real good lately. He had a big shooting night against Indiana and we needed that. Whatever helps the team out, that's what it's about."

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