With the candidate for both Big Ten and national player of the year honors sidelined for almost the entire first half, the Buckeyes (19-6, 9-3 Big Ten) held it together and pulled into a three-way tie for first place in the conference with a 69-52 road victory against Indiana (9-14, 3-8).
They did it thanks to the most balanced scoring effort to date. Four OSU players scored in double figures led by sophomore guard William Buford's 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting. The Buckeyes now head into a Sunday road game against Illinois tied with the Fighting Illini and Michigan State for first place in the league.
"Wow, that's amazing," head coach Thad Matta told the Ohio State Radio Network after being told his team was tied for first place. "I thought our guys did a very good job. The big thing we talked about coming into this game was we had to come in here and take the game knowing Indiana plays very well at home. I thought our guys came out with good energy."
Buford was far from the only player to fill the void, however. Junior center Dallas Lauderdale flirted with a triple-double by scoring 14 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking seven shots. Each of those figures tied a career high for Lauderdale.
His backup in senior Kyle Madsen contributed a career-high 11 points on 4 of 5 shooting, marking the first time he broke double digits in his OSU career.
"I thought those guys did a really good job," Matta said of Lauderdale and Madsen. "They did a tremendous job of finding the seams and the gaps."
When OSU hosted Indiana earlier this year, Turner made his return to action after suffering two fractured vertebrae in a Dec. 5 game. On Jan. 6, Turner had eight points in 20 minutes of action during OSU's 79-54 victory against the Hoosiers.
This time, he also flirted with a triple-double in limited duty. Turner saw 21 minutes of action and had 10 points, seven boards and six assists while finishing with three fouls. He had two points at the half after picking up his second foul with 17:25 remaining before the break. After fouling Indiana's Tom Pritchard, Turner immediately headed to the bench and was replaced by senior guard P.J. Hill.
The reserve had not seen action in the team's previous two games and was on the court for one minute Jan. 31 against Minnesota, and he looked rusty as he missed on one alley-oop pass and caught only backboard on a three-point attempt. He picked up three first-half fouls and gave way to fellow senior Jeremie Simmons at the 8:50 mark.
Hill and Simmons each tossed in one basket in relief of Turner. Hill also had an assist, but neither player had a turnover during the first half.
With that duo sharing the point-guard duties, it was time for sophomore guard William Buford to shine. He also had a moment he'd like to forget: on a fast break with a wide-open path ahead of him to the basket, Buford went for a highlight-reel play.
However, his windmill dunk attempt bounced out and was rebounded by the Hoosiers near the three-point line.
Not that it mattered much in the final scheme of things. OSU shot 56 percent in the final 20 minutes as its lead climbed as high as 25 points on a Lauderdale dunk with 7:53 remaining. That made it a 65-40 OSU lead, and the Hoosiers would close on a 12-4 run.
That final run did not sit well with Matta.
"I thought defensively we had our lapses there in the second half," he said. "We're not real good right now when we get a lead. We lay off the throttle a little bit but we did a good job overall."
The Buckeyes had opened up a 16-9 lead at the 11:20 mark of the first half, but Indiana got a boost when guard Jeremiah Rivers was re-inserted into the lineup. The junior had picked up two quick fouls and headed to the bench at the 18:32 mark of the half.
With him back in the lineup, the Hoosiers put together an 11-4 run capped by a three-pointer from forward Christian Watford that made it 22-20 with 6:09 left in the half. The crowd at Assembly Hall could smell an upset in the brewing, but the Buckeyes did not waste much time in answering. After both teams had scoreless possessions, OSU doubled its lead to four points when junior guard Jon Diebler connected on classmate Dallas Lauderdale for an alley-oop dunk. That basket signaled the start of a 12-0 OSU run to close the half.
"We were able to put a little run on them," Matta said. "The biggest thing was telling our guys they're going to make some runs on us. A team that plays this fast in transition we've got to get back."
Along the way, the Hoosiers showed that they remain a young team going through a rebuilding process. After getting to 20 points, the home team went 0 for 7 from the floor and committed seven turnovers.
The Buckeyes, in turn, got two dunks from Lauderdale, a nice drive by Simmons, a jumper and two free throws Buford and a drive from the top of the circle by junior forward David Lighty that resulted in a two-handed dunk.
That Indiana could pull within two looked doubtful in the early going, as OSU jumped out to a 9-0 lead despite Turner's foul problems. Indiana's first basket did not come until the 16:10 mark of the half.
In a play that summed up the first half action, the Hoosiers had a chance for the final basket of the half after Lighty's drive with 29 seconds remaining. While trying to drive the right side of the basket, sophomore guard Verdell Jones III made contact with Diebler and was whistled for a charge with 11.9 seconds left on the clock.
On his back near the key, Diebler clapped his hands before being helped to his feet by his teammates. Jones simply trudged back to the other side of the court.
With Turner on the sidelines, Buford scored 12 first-half points and took 12 of the team's 33 shots. For the half, OSU scored 10 points off turnovers and committed two of its own – neither of which Indiana was able to turn into points.
The Buckeyes have now won four straight games against the Hoosiers for the first time since the 1967-68 and 1968-69 seasons. OSU has now won eight straight conference games.