High-scoring buddies Turner, Battle meet again

BY foxsports • February 23, 2010

Talor Battle wanted to check in with his hurting friend, Evan Turner, but the Ohio State star didn't return two text messages before a third, prodding message finally drew a response.

``So then he called me back and he's like ... 'You guys win two games and you think you can boss me around,''' Penn State's high-scoring guard recounted with a chuckle.

Two of the Big Ten's best players are also buddies. They'll catch up Wednesday when No. 9 Ohio State (21-7, 11-4) visits Penn State (10-16, 2-12).

When it comes to scoring, Turner is the conference leader at 19.5 points a game while Battle is second at 19.0 points.

Each man leads their respective teams in rebounding. Turner's 9.3 per game lead all Big Ten players, while Battle's 5.6 rebounding average is even more impressive given he's a 6-foot point guard.

Assists? They've got that covered, too - Turner is second in the league at 5.77 a game, while Battle is fifth at 4.04.

``We just got to hope to contain him. No one, all year, has stopped him,'' Battle said about Turner.

It sounds like something someone would say about Battle.

``He's not just a guy who can score, he can also pass and makes the guys around him better,'' Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said.

Turner and Battle have followed similar paths over the last couple seasons, emerging as conference player of the year candidates in 2009, an award won by Michigan State's Kalin Lucas. It was toward the end of last season when Battle started taking notice especially of Turner's game.

They bonded more when both were selected to the U.S. national team for last summer's World University Games in Serbia. Battle led that team in scoring (10.2 points), while Turner averaged 4.0 points.

``He's a good teammate, he's fun to play with and he's a good guy,'' Turner said about Battle.

On the court, Turner said Ohio State will have to watch for dribble-weave plays for Battle.

``The thing is, we just have to switch aggressively,'' Turner said. ``They'll try to get us moving around. We have to get stops and go in transition.''

Battle offered more effusive praise about the Ohio State star, who has emerged in conversations as a national player of the year candidate.

If Battle had a vote, he'd go with Turner.

``If I was an NBA coach or general manager, he'd be my first-round draft pick, not (Kentucky guard) John Wall,'' Battle said. ``I think he's the best player in the country.''

Turner impressed on Sunday when he scored 20 points and 10 rebounds in a win at Michigan State, despite a head cold and flulike symptoms.

Battle was in Pittsburgh the same day to watch another friend, Villanova guard Corey Fisher, during the Wildcats' 70-65 loss to Big East rival Pitt, so he couldn't watch Turner's game.

Battle was also slowed down by flulike symptoms during an 81-70 win last week at Northwestern which snapped the Nittany Lions' 12-game losing streak. ``And I kind of joked, 'You really are my son?' Same (sickness) as me,'' Battle said in finally catching up with Turner over the phone.

Part of the challenge with Ohio State is that there are other threats beside Turner, with three other starters averaging at least 12.3 points.

Penn State had essentially been a one-man show with Battle during its 12-game skid, having trouble finding consistent second and third scoring options.

Things appeared to have improved in road wins last week over Northwestern and Michigan. The team showed more flow and rhythm on offense, especially against the Wildcats.

Mired at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, Penn State will have to settle on playing spoilers the rest of the year. Two other Big Ten contenders, Michigan State and Purdue, remain on Penn State's regular season schedule.

First though, Battle will try to grab dinner with Turner if time allows during Ohio State's visit to Happy Valley. The friendship gets shoved aside for the 40 minutes on the court.

``He's obviously going to do what he does, but if we contain the rest of the guys ... who knows, maybe we'll have a chance to win the game,'' Battle said.

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AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller in Columbus, Ohio contributed to this report.


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