No. 21 Buckeyes cruise past Northwestern behind Turner
Evan Turner of No. 21 Ohio State says he's about 90 percent back to where he was before breaking two bones in his back in early December.
After Turner had 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in Ohio State's 76-56 win over his team on Tuesday night, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody was asked if he thought Turner still was that far from being on top of his game.
"Next question," Carmody cracked. Then he added, "Yeah. He's doing OK."
Turner also keyed a fast start with five points in a 7-0 run as the Buckeyes (14-5, 4-3 Big Ten) broke out quick and cruised to their third win in a row.
"I think he's the best player in the country," said teammate Jon Diebler, who added 17 points. "The guy does everything."
As a 6-foot-7 point guard, Turner had the length that enabled the Buckeyes to throw the ball over Northwestern's trapping 1-3-1 halfcourt zone. As a result, the Buckeyes shot 56 percent from the field in opening up a 40-17 halftime lead that allowed them to breeze to the finish.
"In practice we attacked that 1-3-1 pretty well," Turner said. "We figured if we attacked instead of retreated or waited for them to attack us, we would be fine. As long as we were in attack mode, I knew we'd be fine."
Dallas Lauderdale had a career-high 14 points for Ohio State, which has won the last 30 times it has hosted the Wildcats, dating to 1977. The Buckeyes were coming off impressive wins over then-No. 6 Purdue and then-No. 13 Wisconsin last week.
"Coach has been stressing toughness, composure and attacking -- not reacting," Lauderdale said. "We knew they were going to play different defenses and switch man-to-man and 1-3-1. We just wanted to attack whatever we did. The way we started is the way we knew we could start and the way we wanted to start."
John Shurna had 22 points and Drew Crawford 11 for Northwestern (13-5, 2-4), which played its third straight game against a ranked opponent. The Wildcats beat Purdue 72-64 on Saturday, the highest-ranked team they had beaten in 31 years.
At one point in the second half, the Wildcats hit 8 of 10 shots from the field but cut only three points off what was a 23-point deficit at the break.
"They're playing as well as anyone," Carmody said of the Buckeyes, who are finding their groove after Turner missed 4½ weeks with the injury that caused him to miss six games. He's been back for the past five.
The Wildcats hit 9 of 23 3-pointers -- they're in the top 10 in the nation in shots made and attempted behind the arc -- but never had an answer inside against the more aggressive Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes broke out to a quick lead on a Turner jumper and a 3 sandwiched around Diebler's fast-break layup.
"Tonight was a good night," Turner said. "We're definitely getting our transition back, which is important. We really thrive in transition basketball. And we're all getting each other involved in the game and we're all playing well together."
Carmody said the Wildcats had a bad day Monday in practice and that seemed to carry over into the game.
"From the get-go they jumped on us and we weren't even in the game," Carmody said. "They passed the ball really well and they seemed to be hitting on all cylinders."
While Northwestern had difficulty getting space to shoot at the offensive end, the Buckeyes were at their best. They hit their first seven shots from the field while taking a 17-3 lead. After the Wildcats got as close as 10 points, the Buckeyes ran off 14 of the next 18 to go up 31-11.
Ohio State, now 12-0 at home this season, also got three highlight-reel tomahawk dunks from William Buford in the opening half.
The Wildcats, who had outrebounded Purdue 42-23, didn't get a rebound in the opening 9:15. Ohio ended up with a 35-27 upper hand on the boards.
Turner became only the second Ohio State player (joining Jimmy Jackson) to have 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists.
"Having him back in the lineup just makes us that much of a better team," Diebler said. "We're getting our timing down both offensively and defensively."
Coach Thad Matta was asked where he thought Turner's game was.
"About 50 percent," he said with a laugh.