Ohio State’s Evan Turner was dealing with a head cold and flulike symptoms when he arrived at Michigan State for a crucial Big Ten road game.
He left town feeling much better after the No. 9 Buckeyes earned a 74-67 victory Sunday. Turner had a strong second half and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds to tighten the conference standings. The Buckeyes (21-7, 11-4) and No. 11 Spartans (21-7, 11-4) are tied for second place in the Big Ten, a half-game behind Purdue.
Turner rested in the bleachers while the rest of the Buckeyes took shooting practice Saturday night. Turner got a plateful of food — then didn’t eat it — Sunday morning.
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"He did a tremendous job of battling through it," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said of his star, who leads the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding. "You have to give him a lot of credit for how he played. I thought he was a little bit off there at the beginning. He had some great looks. But there were no legs."
Turner scored 16 points in the second half.
William Buford had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who squandered a 14-point second-half lead before rallying for the victory.
Durrell Summers scored 16 points for Michigan State, including seven straight to give the Spartans a 62-61 lead with 4:05 remaining.
Buford hit two free throws to put the Buckeyes back on top 63-62. Turner’s jumper gave Ohio State a 65-62 lead with 2:55 left.
Jon Diebler hit a 3-pointer with 1:45 left to put the Buckeyes ahead 68-62. Michigan State couldn’t rally back, dropping a home game that leaves it needing a strong finish to repeat as conference champions.
"Disappointed would be a foolish word right now," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "It’s more than that."
Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas went 0 for 5 from the floor and scored just one point in the first half before finishing with nine points in the game. Raymar Morgan had nine points and 14 rebounds.
The Buckeyes stayed in the Big Ten race by winning on the road against a much deeper team. Ohio State used just six players Sunday.
The Buckeyes quieted the Breslin Center crowd with a big run midway through the first half to grab a 23-12 lead. Buford had nine points in the first 12 minutes, while Dallas Lauderdale had three dunks off half-court sets.
Turner made only one of his first eight shots and scored just four points in the first half. But his teammates helped out and the Buckeyes took a 39-26 halftime lead.
"It showed we can score," Turner said of the solid team effort. "It’s not just me. It’s all the guys. They made a lot of good plays."
Ohio State outrebounded Michigan State 41-38.
The Spartans made just 9 of 27 shots in the first half, while committing nine turnovers. Michigan State protected the ball better and shot better in the second half, but the damage had been done.
"We fought back, but it’s the same story," said Michigan State’s Draymond Green, who finished with 11 points. "They made plays down the stretch. We didn’t."
Michigan State has the week off before traveling to Purdue for a Feb. 28 matchup. That game was going to be huge for Michigan State’s title hopes regardless of what happened against the Buckeyes.
"Our situation was really going to be the same," Izzo said. "We have to beat Purdue down there, either way."
Ohio State plays at Penn State and then hosts Michigan later this week.