Buckeyes Hope To Be Ready, Not Rusty

Although Evan Turner's game-winning shot against Michigan was the stuff that highlight tapes are made of, the win itself was not a thing of beauty. Now with a game against Illinois on the docket, the Buckeyes are hoping to show a better brand of basketball this time.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Evan Turner's shot was the highlight of the night, but his head coach was not sure it deserved to go in.

Ohio State survived its quarterfinal contest with No. 8 seed Michigan in the Big Ten tournament thanks to a buzzer-beater from the junior guard, but it was a rocky road to get to that point. The Buckeyes overcame a nine-point first-half deficit and opened up a 13-point lead with 10:23 remaining only to see that disappear completely down the stretch before Turner's shot.

In other words, it looked like a team playing its first game in 10 days. After clinching a share of the conference title with a March 2 victory against Illinois, the Buckeyes enjoyed their lone open week in conference play before entering the tournament.

It showed.

"I was so mad at how we had played throughout the course of the game, but as he let it go I thought, ‘Damn, that thing has a chance to go in,' " OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "…I'm not sure it was supposed to go in with how we had played for 39 minutes and 57.8 seconds, but fortunately it did."

The Buckeyes got off to a slow start, and after tying the score at eight with 13:55 left watched as the Wolverines put together an 11-2 run to take a nine-point lead. During that stretch, OSU turned the ball over four times.

One possession in particular was one Matta would likely care to forget. With the score 12-8 in favor of Michigan, Turner threw a pass to junior guard Jon Diebler near the top of the circle. Diebler was not looking, and it bounced off his shoulder and back into Turner's hands. He then found sophomore guard William Buford, who drove the basket from the left baseline only to see the ball fly out of his hands as he jumped into the air.

"I think we were just getting used to the timing," Diebler said. "Games are so much different than practice. It's a completely different speed. Having those 10 days off, it was good for our bodies but getting back in the game rotation and having that game mentality really helped."

The kinks were eventually worked out, and the Buckeyes seized control in the second half of the first half. A 10-point halftime lead climbed to 13 and the final outcome looked certain, but the Wolverines came back.

OSU entered the game 22-0 when leading with five minutes to go, an unblemished figure that nearly went up in smoke.

"This was our first game back," Buford said. "We're getting back into the flow."

The season is now over for the Wolverines, who will not qualify for the NIT and will not pursue a bit for the CBI. Had they won, the chance for postseason play would have grown.

Had OSU lost, the Buckeyes would primarily have been looking at a loss of momentum and nothing more.

"I think it would've been a situation of now you've played one game in 18 days or whatever it is," Matta said. "I want to play as many as we can over here just to get back in the flow of things."

Instead, OSU lived to play again today (1:40 p.m. CBS) against Illinois, a team it defeated handily twice this season. The Illini advanced with a 58-54 victory against Wisconsin. Guard Demetri McCamey said he feels the third time can be a charm for his team if the Illini play with the same intensity they showed against the Badgers.

"We have to fight," he said. "We got beat on rebounds and we didn't fight for the full 40 minutes, something that we did tonight. If we come out (Saturday) with the same intensity, the same fight and (we) rebound I think we'll be successful."

Likewise, Diebler said OSU needs to play with more intensity when it takes the court today.

"(Saturday), there's no excuse," he said. "We've got a game under our belt. At first our timing wasn't right, passes weren't as sharp as they had been at the beginning of the year. We were fortunate to get a win (yesterday) so we've got to come out ready to play (today)."


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