No. 5 Ohio St. 88, Illinois 81

Evan Turner has accepted his mission at this year’s Big Ten

tournament.

He’ll rescue No. 5 Ohio State from any sign of trouble.

One day after making a 37-foot buzzer-beater in the

quarterfinals, Turner bailed out the Buckeyes again Saturday,

scoring 12 of his 31 points after regulation to lead Ohio State

past pesky Illinois 88-81 in double overtime.

“Coach (Thad) Matta and I always talk about if I get my

teammates shots I might find myself open a little bit more, and you

know maybe hitting more shots,” Turner said. “Sometimes you just

have to will your way and make things happen and that’s it.”

That’s what the Big Ten player of the year did on a wacky day in

Indianapolis.

The result: Ohio State will play in Sunday’s title game against

sixth-seeded Minnesota, a 69-42 winner over No. 6 Purdue, the

defending tourney champ. Ohio State, which shared the

regular-season title with Purdue and No. 11 Michigan State, is

trying to make its case for a No. 1 seed.

Turner finished with a rare triple double – 31 points, 10

rebounds and 10 of Ohio State’s 18 turnovers. Turner also had six

assists and two steals.

Still, Turner and the Buckeyes (26-7) almost didn’t get their

chance.

Twice Illinois had shots at the buzzer for the win. But Mike

Davis didn’t get a wide open layup off in time at the end of

regulation, and D.J. Richardson missed a long jumper after the red

lights lit up on the backboard at the close of the first

overtime.

So when Turner got a third chance to save the Buckeyes, he

didn’t let them down. The junior swingman found Jon Diebler for an

open 3 to start the second overtime, then made back-to-back layups

to give the Buckeyes enough breathing room.

Turner played more than 14 minutes with four fouls and never

went to the bench until he fouled out with a minute left in the

game. He said afterward he still didn’t need a break.

“We were in it to win it – we could have went for 80 minutes,”

he said. “We were going to win the game, however long it

took.”

Illinois (19-14) heads home to mull over another close call and

whether its resume is strong enough to get one of the selection

committee’s 34 at-large bids.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. Obviously, I think we had

a good showing here, but that doesn’t mean anything,” said coach

Bruce Weber, whose voice was hoarse. “Hopefully, the word got out

because I think if we’re one of the top 65 teams in the country and

we get in the tournament, I think we can do some damage.”

Turner was unstoppable when it mattered most.

He tied the score in regulation with a nifty drive down the

baseline for a reverse layup. He scored the final eight Ohio State

points in the first overtime, tying it with a layup with 22 seconds

left, and then dominated over the final five minutes.

Diebler finished with 14 points, joining the Buckeyes’

1,000-point club. His fourth 3, just 15 seconds into the last

overtime, gave him a school record 273. Jamar Butler held the

previous mark of 272.

William Buford had 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Ohio State has won six straight, 12 of 13 and has not lost to an

unranked team since Jan. 9.

Illinois was led by Demetri McCamey, who had 22 points, five

assists and four steals. Richardson had 15 points, and Davis had 13

points and 18 rebounds, one short of Greg Oden’s single-game

tournament record (19).

It was almost enough.

Ohio State endured two long scoring droughts, more than 7

minutes in the first half and more than 4 minutes in the second

half. The combination left the Buckeyes in a 45-35 hole.

That’s when Ohio State started to rally around Turner. He scored

seven points in a 20-0 run that gave the Buckeyes a 59-50 lead with

8 minutes left in regulation and seemingly had the them headed

toward a rout.

Not so fast.

Illinois scored six straight points to get back in the game and

took a 64-61 lead when McCamey hit a 3 with 1:17 to go. Buford tied

the score with a layup, McCamey hit two free throws and Turner

drove in for the reverse layup that tied it with 12 seconds left to

force overtime.

Turner was just getting started.

“What a tremendous college basketball game and the turn of

events, the changes of momentum,” Matta said. “There were so many

guys making great plays, I can’t remember them all. They showed

great toughness to win this basketball game.