Ohio St.-Butler Preview
When Evan Turner decided to bypass the NBA for another season at Ohio State, there were big expectations for the Buckeyes.
With Turner expected to be sidelined the next two months, Ohio State may have to reassess its goals.
The No. 13 Buckeyes will get an early test to see how they cope without their star guard Saturday when they visit No. 22 Butler, which is still looking for a win against a ranked opponent.
After a week-long break for final exams, Ohio State (7-1) will try to win its sixth straight. The task won't be easy, having to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse where the Bulldogs have won 55 of their last 60 against non-conference opponents, and having to do so without Turner, who suffered broken bones in his back when he fell while dunking in last Saturday's 111-60 win over Eastern Michigan.
Coach Thad Matta said Turner, averaging 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists, will miss eight weeks.
"Evan was to this point in the season the best player in college basketball," Matta said. "We have been through tough situations before and our guys will regroup and prepare for the rest of our season starting with Butler."
In 2008-09, the Buckeyes lost captain David Lighty to a broken foot seven games into the season. They went on to finish 22-11 and reach the NCAA tournament anyway, with Turner carrying much of the load.
Ohio State now has to figure out a way to stay competitive without Turner. Much of the pressure will be placed on second-leading scorer Jon Diebler, who finished with 21 points in 27 minutes last Saturday.
Matta will also be looking to William Buford and Lighty to take on bigger roles. Ohio State is among the top 10 in scoring in Division I at 87.9 points per game and has topped 100 in two of the last three.
P.J. Hill is most likely to start at point guard Saturday. He played a season-high 33 minutes last week and finished with a career-best 18 points, making 3 of 4 3-pointers.
Turner's absence may make it harder for the Buckeyes to extend their domination of Butler (6-3). Ohio State has won 31 of the 40 all-time meetings, although it's 11-7 on the road against the Bulldogs. The Buckeyes lost their last visit to Hinkle Fieldhouse, 65-46 on Dec. 1, 2007.
Butler is looking to bounce back after a 72-65 loss to No. 15 Georgetown on Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. It was the third loss in as many games against a ranked opponent for the Bulldogs, who fell to Minnesota and Clemson last month.
They have lost eight of nine against teams in the Top 25.
"We have to get better," coach Brad Stevens said. "We've played a tough schedule and it's not going to get easier. We have a ton of things to work on."
Butler was outrebounded 43-30 and shot 31.1 percent Tuesday. Matt Howard, who came in averaging 11.9 points per game, shot 1 of 9. Gordon Hayward led the Bulldogs with a season-high 24 points.
Butler is still trying to snap out of its shooting struggles, making less than 40 percent of its attempts in five of the last seven games.
Ohio State beat Butler 54-51 last Dec. 13. Hayward led all scorers with 25 points but missed a 3-pointer with a second left.
This is Matta's second trip to face his former team, which he coached to a 24-8 record in 2000-01, then a school record for wins.