The men’s team probably needed the victory in their season finale in order to make the choice a little easier for the tournament selection committee. Failing that, the Buckeyes were left with a resume that had them a 19 win team, a 9-9 team in conference and losers of 6 of their last 8 games. Workable, sure, but far, far from desirable. However, Evan Turner’s 10 points with under 7 minutes left to play lifted Ohio State to the victory and safely (we should hope) into the NCAA tournament. His 17pts (7/11 FG) and 5 assists were game highs among the Buckeyes and perhaps the biggest reason why the Buckeyes won this game in spite of themselves. The Buckeyes stormed off to a 21-6 lead early in the first half, only to score 4 more points through the final 11 minutes of the first half. When the start of the second half is considered as well, the Buckeyes scored an astounding 6 points in almost 20 minutes of game action. Muy impresivo, indeed. The not-so-stellar display of offense — or stellar display of turnovers in light of the Nerds’ 1-3-1 look, whichever you feel is appropriate — through this time afforded the Nerds the window necessary to rally from such an early deficit to take a slim lead halfway through the second period. With the game locked in the final 10 minutes of the game, some quick points by BJ Mullens and Turner’s 10 points of his team’s final 14 were enough to lift the Buckeyes to the victory, avenging — to some extent — the loss earlier in Evanston.
The 17 points and 5 assists for Turner allowed him to finish 3rd in the conference in PPG, a very good .511 FG percentage, second in free throws made (t-1st in attempts), 4th in conference in RPG, and 9th in APG. More importantly, if we treat the Big Ten’s MVP as something other than the best player on the best team, I see very, very few candidates more deserving than Evan Turner. He leads his team in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals and is second in blocks. Heck, he even leads his team in turnovers too. Yet, perhaps the prevalence of turnovers — 4 against the Nerds in Value City Arena — is a metaphor for how much he has to do for the Buckeyes. In short, nothing could get done for Ohio State, the 5th best team in the Big Ten, unless Evan Turner is the one doing it. The only other player that I’ve seen for whom a similar claim could be made is Talor Battle for Penn State.
The way the Buckeyes have played of late provides optimism that this Jim Foster team may finally achieve something that has eluded previous teams during his tenure in Columbus: a tournament run in March. Foster has had some great teams in his past, more than a few arguably better than this one. However, unlike those previous teams, injuries and inconsistency hasn’t been the case here. There’s been no faltering down the stretch, his players are healthy, and there seems to be no fatigue here. Moreover, with a likely spot in the Columbus subregional, some home-cooking should propel this team into the Round of 16. Jantel Lavender should make sure of it. She’s unstoppable, inside and out. I can’t imagine many teams will have a way to stop her.
- Ohio State was well represented too, but the Purdue fans helped make it a lively atmosphere for a title game. [↩]