Replacing Evan Turner

The cold hard fact is that no one player is going to be able to make up for Ohio State's loss of Evan Turner. As the Buckeyes prepared for Saturday's road game at Butler, they have had to look at how they plan on moving forward offensively. In the process, P.J. Hill and his teammates might be asked to do things a little differently.

There is no replacement for Evan Turner.

When Ohio State lost its junior point guard for a projected eight weeks with a back injury, it lost more than just a player. The Buckeyes lost their leader in points, rebounds and assists as well as one of the most explosive players in the country.

But as the No. 13 Buckeyes have tried to figure out which group of players will have to increase their overall production to make up for Turner's absence, they have at least had the benefit of one week in between games to try and figure a few things out.

Things might look a little different tomorrow when OSU takes on No. 22 Butler (noon, ESPN) as a result.

"We've had to change quite a bit of things that we've been doing," head coach Thad Matta said. "We'll have a little different approach as we move forward."

The obvious question is who will replace Turner in the starting lineup. His primary backup is senior guard P.J. Hill, who finished out last season as the starter in relief of classmate Jeremie Simmons.

Until Turner went out in the first half of the Dec. 5 game against Eastern Michigan, Hill had seen no more than 19 minutes in any one game this season. As the Buckeyes were finishing off a home victory against Florida State, Hill was unable to get off the bench.

Afterward, Matta said he simply liked how the 6-7 Turner was rebounding down the stretch against a sizable Seminoles team. The coach felt that the 6-1 Hill would have been unable to handle a similar role.

Hill is the most likely heir apparent to the starting point guard spot, but Matta did not commit to that during Thursday interviews. He took the spot from Simmons last season as the former junior college player of the year struggled, and now Simmons could also be in line for some reps at point guard. However, the 6-2 Simmons has flourished in his role off the bench this season, averaging 10.8 points per game, and Matta might be wary of disrupting that comfort zone.

Another possible candidate is junior David Lighty, who along with Turner served as the team's primary slashers to the basket.

Matta confirmed that Lighty could see some action at the point in relief of Turner, and the swingman from Cleveland said he worked some point guard in high school.

"It's nothing new," he said. "We've all played basketball before. In high school we were all probably the star players on our team. In high school I played (all five spots). I'd bring the ball up the court, pass it, go to the block and post up. It's nothing that's new for us."

As the team's leading scorer, OSU's offense flowed through Turner primarily through ball screens. Lighty also pointed out that the Buckeyes have utilized a four-guard attack this season that has seen whoever grabs a defensive rebound be the one to push the ball up the court. As he also pointed out, however, that person was usually Turner.

Matta said Turner had both a knack and a mentality for grabbing rebounds that is not easily replaced.

"He did have a great hunger for the basketball," the coach said. "I think that was something that was really important to him. Evan's got a great knack for where the ball's coming off and when it's coming off. He does a good job with that."

Without Turner, OSU is now looking at what kind of offensive identity the team can forge with the players who are available to go. That experimentation, coupled with the fact that this past week was finals week at Ohio State, has made for a chaotic week of practice.

"Practice has been like finals with all the new stuff and changes we've been implementing to the system," Hill said. "It's just hectic. We're trying to learn all this new stuff and implement it while we've got guys in different positions, guys out. It's like finals week."

Lighty likened the week to being similar to a spring skill session with players moving all the court to work on different facets of their games. In addition, the junior said the players have confidence in bench players not often seen in games based on what those players produce during practice.

"(Hill) prepared himself through practices, preparing his body," Lighty said. "He's doing the same thing everyone else on the team is doing. With Evan hurt, people are going to have to come in and be ready and show they have talent and skill and show why they're on the team."

So who will be the player to replace Turner? The answer is no one.

"It's all of us," Lighty said. "We've always been a team. We've always been together. There's no one that ‘you have to be Evan Turner now.' There's no one who's going to do that. It's just collectively all of us coming out to play our game and doing what coach has done to prepare us."


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