Evan Turner — improbably nicknamed The Villain by teammate Mark Titus — came back to Ohio State tonight to see his jersey retired and hung from the rafters. Turner had a storied career with the Buckeyes, won National Player of the Year honors, and made a killer three-point buzzer-beater to beat Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. Tonight he gave a heartfelt speech about his teammates, his coaches, and especially his Mom helping him along the way.
Oh, and the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines, too. A good time was had by all.
Much as I would selfishly like to have Turner stay with the Buckeyes and lead them for another season, it is hard to argue with his decision. He won a carload of awards and honors this year and is projected to be a top 3 choice in the NBA draft. Under the NBA set up, if Turner is a top 3 choice he will make more than $7 million in his first two years in the league. How can you expect a kid to turn down the chance to earn such a potentially life-changing amount of money, and run the risk of some horrible injury that could make that money vanish like a puff of smoke in a stiff breeze?
Last night the Buckeyes fell short in their bid for the Elite 8, falling to Tennessee 76-73. It was a tough, back-and-forth game, but ultimately Tennessee’s outright dominance of the boards, free throw shooting, and flypaper defense on Buckeye sharpshooter Jon Diebler carried them to a narrow victory. The Volunteers deserve credit for playing a tough game, beating a very good team, and earning their first trip ever to the Elite 8.
The Buckeyes and fans celebrate after beating Illinois
As for Ohio State, we hoped they would win, but they didn’t — and now their season is suddenly over. Although it ended with a loss (a result that will happen for all but one team in the NCAA Tournament) that fact should not detract from an excellent season.
Evan Turner, who played his heart out last night, clearly is one of the best players in the country. Buckeyes fans will long remember his excellent play this year and his gritty and speedy return from a serious back injury; we will recall with special relish his last-second three-pointer to stun Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. William Buford and David Lighty both stepped up their games this year, on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court, all the while playing virtually every minute of every game for the short-handed Buckeyes. Dallas Lauderdale also improved his game and was an intimidating shot-blocking force on defense. And although Jon Diebler had a difficult game last night, his pinpoint three-point shooting was a key ingredient that helped propel Ohio State on its end-of-the-season run to a share of the Big Ten regular season championship, the Big Ten Tournament title, and the Sweet 16 in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Kudos, too, to Coach Thad Matta and his staff for producing an exciting season and a team of young men who were fine representatives of The Ohio State University. Coaching at the major college level is not easy — Coach Matta just makes it look that way.
Tonight the Buckeye basketball team plays for a spot in the Elite 8. Standing in their way is the Tennessee Volunteers, the only team in the country this year to beat both Kansas and Kentucky — generally regarded by the pundits, at least, as the two best teams in the land. Tennessee and Ohio State have a bit of a rivalry going; they played twice in 2007, including a come-from-behind victory by the Buckeyes in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, and another regular season game in 2008 won by Tennessee.
Tennessee plays the press, which is not a style Ohio State has seen much during the regular season. For the Buckeyes, the press will present significant challenges. Evan Turner, as the point guard, will have to work harder to get the ball upcourt and watch for the trap; David Lighty will probably do more ball-handling in the backcourt as a result. If they Buckeyes can break the press, they will need to take advantage. Jon Diebler will have to get to good spots and knock down open three-pointers, and William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale will need to finish if the Buckeyes can get an advantage on the break. Because the Buckeyes typically don’t play many players fatigue could be a factor, and any foul trouble could be a serious problem.
To advance in the NCAA Tournament you need to beat the best teams around, and Tennessee definitely belongs in that category. The Tournament also requires teams to adjust to different styles, like Tennessee’s press, if they want to move forward. I expect that Thad Matta and his staff have worked hard this week on schemes to beat the press. Tonight we’ll see if that work bears fruit.
Dr. Science came over to watch the game yesterday, and while munching on Hills pizza and other goodies we watched the Ohio State men’s team beat Georgia Tech, 75-66, to advance to the Sweet 16. The Buckeyes were led by Evan Turner, who bounced back from a subpar first-round game to lead the Buckeyes in scoring, Jon Diebler, who repeatedly hit three-pointers in the second half to build the Buckeyes’ lead, and David Lighty, whose fearless drives to the bucket and tough defense helped to keep the Yellow Jackets at bay as the game drew to a close. Dallas Lauderdale was a stalwart force in the middle and William Buford contributed 9 points and 8 rebounds. The win was a true team effort.
The Buckeyes next will play Tennessee on Friday night. In the meantime, they get to enjoy a week of extra basketball, of recognition that this has been a season of great accomplishment for the team and its players, and of intense focus on the next match-up that could prove to be the gateway to even greater achievement. For fans like me, this week is like a surprise present. No one takes advancing to the Sweet 16 for granted, so when it happens you just enjoy basking in the glow of the team’s success and participating in a bonus week of happy basketball chatter with other fans.
Of all the fine basketball teams in the nation, only 16 are still alive and competing for the NCAA championship. When your team is one of those 16 teams, it is a sweet week indeed. Go Buckeyes!
The Ohio State men’s basketball team beat Illinois in double overtime yesterday, in their second game in two days. Today they face Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. As with the Michigan game on Friday and the Illinois game yesterday, the Golden Gophers no doubt feel they need to win to make the NCAA tournament — and winning today’s game would give them an automatic bid.
William Buford and David Lighty, two of the "Iron Men"
For the Buckeyes, the first two games of the tournament have been nail-biting classics. Evan Turner’s shot on Friday to beat the Wolverines already has entered Ohio State lore, and yesterday’s thriller against Illinois was a game of runs and cold spells where Illinois twice had the chance to win the game on a last-second shot but was unable to even get the shot off.
Whatever happens today, you have to give tremendous credit to the Buckeye starters. Yesterday two of the starters, David Lighty and William Buford, never left the floor; they played the full 40-minute regulation game and both five-minute overtime periods without a breather. Evan Turner, who fouled out with a minute left, played 49 minutes; Jon Diebler, who sat for a bit in the first half with foul trouble, played 40 minutes. The box score for the game is here. Those four are true “Iron Men” playing a fast-paced game where the players are constantly in motion and in contact with their opponents.
As a fan, I would like to see the Buckeyes win today, but I would like to see them do so with more help from their bench. The last thing we need, with the NCAA tournament only days away, is a season-ending injury that occurs because players are fatigued. And it would be nice if Ohio State didn’t have to play again until Friday evening, too. Even Iron Men can use some rest now and then.
Evan Turner swished a 38-foot jump shot at the buzzer to lead Ohio State over Michigan, 69-68, in today’s Big Ten Tournament game. It was a game where Michigan seemingly couldn’t miss toward the end of the game, and finally pulled ahead by 2 with 2 seconds left — leaving just enough time for Turner’s heroics.
Normally, I wouldn’t post a sports clip, but this shot is an exception.