With A Little Help From His Friends

Evan Turner has drawn plenty of attention this season for his individual play, as has the fact that he was not selected for Big Ten player of the year honors. Turner faced off against the player who won that award, and he got plenty of help from his teammates en route to a big win.

INDIANAPOLIS – In a battle of the Big Ten's top two players, Evan Turner called for reinforcements.

With Ohio State facing off against Michigan State for the right to advance to the title game of the Big Ten tournament, the game also provided a match-up between conference player of the year Kalin Lucas from MSU and the presumed runner-up in OSU's Turner.

The Buckeyes went on to take the team victory, and in doing so they proved that Turner is not the only player who makes their engine run. Heading into the locker room at Conseco Fieldhouse with a five-point halftime advantage, the Buckeyes had gotten zero points from their leading scorer in Turner.

At the other end of the court, Lucas had six points on 2 of 4 shooting but had two turnovers against zero assists. Conversely, Turner had chipped in four rebounds, three assists, one block, one steal and three turnovers as his team carved out a lead it would not relinquish.

So who won the battle between the league's two top players? The Buckeyes.

"We really stepped up and took it personal because there have been games where he has been double- and triple-teamed and we haven't knocked down shots," OSU sophomore guard Jon Diebler said. "We took it upon ourselves to realize that if we're going to be a good team and make a run in the tournament we have to do that because he has been doing good all year.

"He has been the top player in the conference the whole year and one of the top players in the country so I think how we played helped him out a lot more."

The Buckeyes got production across the board from a number of different players. Freshman William Buford chipped in 13 first-half points and finished with 14 as Turner scored all of his game-high 18 points in the final 20 minutes. Diebler had eight first-half points, freshman center B.J. Mullens had six and junior guard Jeremie Simmons added five.

By the end of the game, four Buckeyes were in double figures and three others scored more than their season averages entering the game.

"It shows that we have more than one weapon," said OSU sophomore center Dallas Lauderdale, one of the three players to exceed his scoring average with seven points. "Everybody in the country knows about Evan now so now other people have to step up because teams are going to throw two or three people at him, which is going to leave others open."

All four of Turner's first-half field goal attempts came on jumpers away from the basket. The sophomore said the Spartans were switching on all screens and shadowing him with an extra player to keep him from getting to the basket.

In essence, they were daring someone else besides Turner to beat them – and a number of players rose to the occasion.

"It gives the team confidence," Turner said. "If the team wins, that's all that matters. We found a way to win, and good teams find a way to win. I think it shows how good of a team we are. We've got good scorers."

Now riding a four-game winning streak heading into the Big Ten tournament championship game against Purdue, the Buckeyes appear to be a team peaking at the right time. However, head coach Thad Matta cautioned against thinking too highly of where his team stands now 31 games into the season.

"The one thing that you've always got to be careful of is when you start winning games everything's great," he said. "We've still got some work to do and preparation and taking better care (of the ball). We had a couple times today in transition in the first half where I saw with my own eyes eight points of opportunities where we turned it over."

That message got across to his players, as the likes of Diebler and P.J. Hill said they know there are still plenty of areas in which to grow.

In the second half, Turner began to assert himself and was aided by a 10-for-11 performance from the charity stripe in the second half. He was one cog in an offensive weapon that put up 48 second-half points.

Hill credited the game to each player on the team growing more comfortable with what he is being tasked with by the coaches.

"Everybody knows that they're going to get a chance to impact the game at a certain time and when your number is called be ready," he said. "Everybody is stepping up to the plate, like Jeremie Simmons coming off the bench and getting big threes in the first half, Walter Offutt getting big rebounds, B.J. finishing. Everybody's going to get their chance, so when you get that chance take advantage of it."

The overall performance is one that has the Buckeyes confident in what they can bring to the table for a tournament run.

"I don't want to say it, but we're a young team and everyone knows that," Mullens said. "We're just going to get better and better from here. I think we can be a scary team through the tournament."


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