Trio Sharing Point Guard Duties

When Ohio State fell behind in a big way early against Purdue, head coach Thad Matta juggled a few things to get his team's offense rolling. That included using Evan Turner as the point guard for stretches during the first half. What will happen tonight against Minnesota? Here's a look.

As the 2008-09 season has rolled on, Evan Turner has worn a number of hats for the Ohio State men's basketball team.

Now, the sophomore swingman who serves as the team's leading scorer and rebounder might be adding part-time point guard to his repertoire. As the Buckeyes mounted a first-half comeback Feb. 3 against visiting Purdue before pulling out the victory in overtime, Turner found himself bringing the ball up the court on a number of occasions throughout the game.

Junior Jeremie Simmons has started all 21 games this season at the point, but when he struggled early head coach Thad Matta opted to make a switch. In came junior P.J. Hill, and both he and Turner shared the ball-handling responsibilities in relief of Simmons.

Now Matta said he at least remains a possibility to see more playing time there as the season goes on.

"It just sort of developed," he said. "We sort of stuck with it. I think a lot of it will be predicated on how we're playing, how the flow is."

When he first started playing basketball, Turner said he was a point guard. He began this season as a small forward but then moved down to power forward when David Lighty went down with a stress fracture that has sidelined him since Dec. 17.

His presence at the point allowed him to have the ball in his hands more often, a positive for the OSU offense. Matta said Turner has worked on the point guard position somewhat in practice depending on what sort of drills the team is going through.

"I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to play point guard further down the line," Turner said. "I was just trying to help the team out. Coach felt I could use the ball screen a little better and the offense worked a little bit more at that certain time of the game. I had no problems moving into the one spot."

He did not hang onto the ball-handling responsibilities in the second half, however, as Hill and Simmons split minutes running the OSU offensive attack. When the game went into overtime, it was solely Hill's show at the point guard spot.

Hill said he enjoys sharing the responsibilities with Turner because he is more of a defender while Turner is more of a scorer. Regardless of who handled the ball, Hill was up top in the OSU zone at the point guard spot.

Turner's size and abilities have made it tough for defenders to stop him this season. When matched up against someone smaller, he can post up and score. When he is at a size disadvantage, his teammates get him the ball away from the basket and let him use his athletic abilities to create a shot.

As his profile grows, Turner is becoming a player other teams are going to key on as they try to stop the Buckeyes. While they try to deny him the basketball, the opportunity to bring it up the court takes away one line of defense from OSU's opponents.

"A lot of teams are trying to deny him because they know he's the centerpiece of our offense, but you can't be denied when you're the best player," Hill said. "He makes the plays. Their key on defense is to stop him and keep the ball out of his hands because positive things happen for us when he gets the ball."

Matta said asking Turner to bring the ball up adds a negligible amount of stress to his game. Last season, he had 99 turnovers against 98 assists and has similar totals so far this season: an even 68 turnovers and assists each.

Moving forward, Matta said Simmons will be back to his usual spot when the Buckeyes tip against No. 19 Minnesota (8 p.m., Big Ten Network). Three days prior to the Purdue game, Simmons had a career-high 17 points and eight assists against Indiana in a high-scoring affair.

Turner said Simmons has suffered no ill effects since losing his spot against the Boilermakers.

"He's still working hard," Turner said. "Jeremie's a team guy. He's a good guy. He's all about winning. He's so excited when we won versus Purdue. He's ready to come out and play another hard Big Ten game and just help the team once again."

As long as Simmons gets into a flow with the rest of the offense against the Gophers, he will remain a key part of Matta's attack.

"You know me know, if we get into a flow with something I'm going to stick with it," he said. "That's what happened in that game. I expect him to be ready to go (Saturday) night."

If he's not, look for Turner to perhaps find his way to the backcourt once again.


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