One night after describing himself as 90 percent back after missing six games with fractured vertebrae in his back, the junior point guard put up 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists as No. 21 Ohio State seized control of its home game against Northwestern early and cruised the rest of the way to a 76-56 victory.
The Wildcats entered the game unranked but receiving votes in the national polls after having defeated then-No. 6 Purdue four days after the Buckeyes did the same last week. It took the Boilermakers until the second half to show why.
The final outcome in this one was barely in doubt as the Buckeyes (14-5, 4-3 Big Ten) took the Wildcats (13-5, 2-4) out of the game early. Turner got things rolling with a jumper on the first possession of the game, and his teammates would not miss a shot until the 12:35 mark of the half.
"Right from the get-go they just jumped on us and we were never really in the game," Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody said. "I thought they passed the ball real well. They seemed to be hitting on all cylinders."
The Buckeyes hit on their first seven shots from the floor and got at least one basket from all five of their starters as it jumped out a 17-3 lead. Northwestern got a three-pointer from Drew Crawford at the 16:48 mark to make it a 9-3 OSU lead, and after two free-throws from Jeremy Nash almost four minutes later the Wildcats did not hit on a second field goal until John Shurna made a jumper at the 11:50 mark.
His shot made it 17-7 in favor of the Buckeyes, and the lead would grow from there and stretch as high as 26 points when Turner opened the second half with a three-pointer that made the score 43-17.
Junior center Dallas Lauderdale – who finished with a career-high 14 points – said he expected the fast start from his team based on how practices have gone late.
"Coach has been stressing toughness, composure and attacking and not reacting," he said. "We knew they were going to play different defenses and switch from man to 1-3-1 and we just wanted to attack whatever we did. The way we started was the way we knew we could start and the way we wanted to start."
As Carmody said, the Buckeyes used their ability to pass the ball to help pick apart Northwestern's defense. OSU assisted on 11 of its 14 first-half baskets and shot 56.0 percent (14 for 25) in the first half and finished with 19 helpers while going 27 for 52 (51.9 percent) from the court.
Each starter had at least seven points, with junior guard Jon Diebler putting up 17 on 6 of 11 shooting. In addition, sophomore guard William Buford looked primed for a big night with eight first-half points thanks to three powerful one-handed dunks, but foul trouble kept him on the bench for 14 minutes in the second half.
His ability to attack the basket was representative of the way the Buckeyes were clicking. Lauderdale connected on all six of his shot attempts because they were all dunks, typically of the two-handed variety.
"It just means my teammates were getting me the ball in great positions to score," he said. "I credit the 14 points to my teammates because they were getting me the ball in places where I could score."
Turner was the star once again, however, breaking down defenders off the dribble and finding ways to get his teammates involved. While he came short of his third triple-double of the season, the Chicago native joined Jimmy Jackson as the only Buckeyes with more than 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists.
After the game, the junior said he still feels he has to make improvements in a few areas.
"The key thing I'm speaking on is a little more conditioning and my feel for the game," he said. "That's what I'm trying to get back. I felt like I anticipated things better. I'm trying to get that back. It doesn't have to do with the injury, just where I was at mentally in the game."
Eleven of Turner's points and five of his assists came in the second half. Although the Wildcats outscored OSU in the final 20 minutes by a 39-36 score, the Buckeyes never let their foot off the gas pedal. Northwestern twice got as close at 18 points, but OSU kept coming.
"When you play Northwestern they do so many different things and you never know exactly what's coming," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "You're trying to play perfect and you can't. We did a good job of figuring out on the fly and adjusting."
Northwestern ended the game shooting 38.3 percent (18 for 47) from the field after going 4 for 22 (18.2 percent) in the first half. The Wildcats 17 first-half points matched a season-low total allowed in one half by the Buckeyes this season.
Forward John Shurna led Northwestern with 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting. Fourteen of his points came in the second half with the final outcome already decided.