Evan Turner wasn’t named preseason Big Ten player of the year, but he certainly looked like the best in the conference in Ohio State’s season opener.
After notching the second triple-double in school history, Turner will try to help No. 16 Buckeyes to a second straight victory Thursday night against James Madison in the 2K Sports Classic.
Turner was a preseason all-conference selection, with Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas earning player of the year honors. The Buckeyes swingman, though, had quite a season debut Monday with 14 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists in a 100-60 victory over Alcorn State.
“I just try to do my job,” he said. “Coach (Thad Matta) asked me to rebound, find the open shots, make shots. I never ever dreamed of having a triple-double or anything like that. This is cool and I’m really excited.”
Matta has shifted the versatile Turner to point guard this season, and it looks like the right decision so far. Dennis Hopson recorded the other triple-double by a Buckeye in 1986.
“You look at the players who have come through Ohio State over the course of the existence of basketball,” Matta said. “For him to be put into that category is obviously a tremendous honor and it speaks volumes to the player he is. That’s an amazing stat line when you really look at it.”
The Buckeyes have more than just Turner. Jon Diebler led Ohio State with 22 points while William Buford added 19 and reserve Jeremie Simmons had 15.
“We have a lot of weapons on this team,” Diebler said. “Guys can come into the game like Jeremie and Walter (Offutt) and make big shots. When we can spread the floor with shooters and have Turner hit the paint, we can play extremely well.”
James Madison is playing its 2009-10 opener after going 21-15 last season - its first under coach Matt Brady. The Dukes finished with their highest win total since 1992-93.
The Dukes have four players with Ohio ties, although only two will play Thursday. Devon Moore, a Columbus native and their fourth-leading scorer last season at 10.6 points per game, is out with a torn left ACL suffered Sunday. Forward Eric Beard - a Reynoldsburg, Ohio native - has not been cleared to play due to an irregular heartbeat.
Sophomore forward Julius Wells, a Toledo native, averaged 11.6 points last season and will be in the starting lineup. Freshman center Trevon Flores, who started in high school as a sophomore and junior at Eastmoor Academy in Columbus, is expected to make his debut.
James Madison won the lone previous meeting with Ohio State, 55-48 in the first round of the 1982 NCAA tournament.