No. 9 Ohio State tops Michigan, 66-55
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—After helping No. 9 Ohio State to a 66-55 win over Michigan on Saturday, Evan Turner had some words of inspiration for his rooting interest in Sunday’s huge Big Ten showdown.
“Try hard,” Turner said to the Michigan State Spartans. “There are no losers.”
Turner had 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and William Buford had 24 points as the Buckeyes (23-7, 13-4) took care of their business. Now if the Spartans can just hold up their end of the bargain with a win at first-place Purdue, Ohio State could clinch a share of the conference title on Tuesday night at home in its final regular season game against Illinois.
Coach Thad Matta declined to offer any further encouragement to the Spartans.
“I’ve never been a guy who thought about a conference championship along the way. It’s more, ‘Let’s just play the next game,”’ he said. “I’m very proud of where we are today and the fact that that game tomorrow could determine some type of our fate, yeah, I’ll have an interest in it. But we just have to get these guys ready to go again on Tuesday night.”
Dallas Lauderdale matched a career high with 14 points for Ohio State and had several highlight-reel slam dunks off alley-oop passes, including a one-handed jam off an assist from Turner.
“My teammates usually call me ‘Go Get It,”’ said Lauderdale, a 6-foot-8 forward. “They throw the ball wherever in the air and I’ll just jump up and go get it.”
It was another crippling loss for the Wolverines (13-15, 6-10), who were considered an NCAA tournament team before the season got under way. They led by a point at the break while playing what coach John Beilein called one of his team’s best halves of the season.
But things fell apart in the final 20 minutes. They shot just 26 percent from the field and Ohio State, which shot 59 percent for the game, rolled to its 10th win in the last 12 meetings, including a sixth consecutive victory in the series at home.
“(That’s) very typical of this team, being in situations where the adversity hits a little bit and we go into tape delay,” Beilein said. “And that’s what’s been the frustration part of the year.”
DeShawn Sims, Darius Morris and Zack Novak each had 11 points for Michigan, which lost its third in a row.
The Buckeyes—in particular, Turner—took control at the outset of the second half in front of a cheering crowd of 18,862.
Just as in the first half, Turner opened the scoring with a baseline jumper before Buford scored inside on an assist from David Lighty. That gave Ohio State the lead at 36-33.
“I had a lot of good looks on the perimeter,” Buford said. “My teammates were able to get me the ball. I was just knocking down shots.”
Later, Turner blocked a layup by Novak then grabbed an offensive rebound at the other end and made a layup to push the advantage to 45-37.
Beilein raved about Turner’s ability one on one.
“Turner certainly is one of the few guys that you can just give him the ball at 17 feet and he can make a shot over somebody at 10 (feet),” he said. “And there’s not a whole lot of defenses for that.”
The Buckeyes were successful on three consecutive possessions, Lauderdale scoring inside off a Turner assist, Buford banging in a perimeter jumper and then Lauderdale hitting a reverse dunk while unguarded to make it 51-40.
Michigan pulled to 57-50 before Lauderdale used one hand to jam in a Turner alley-oop pass with 4 1/2 minutes left, the basket and the arena rocking for several seconds after.
“You just pass it to him and let him do what he does,” said Turner, adding to his resume as a candidate for national player of the year. “He’s a freak athlete. He’s got a 7-foot-5 wingspan and he can really leave the floor for a guy his size.”
With 3:45 left, Turner calmly backed a defender in and hit a step-back 15-foot jumper for a 61-52 lead.
The Wolverines never got closer than nine points again.
The Buckeyes have won three in a row overall and 12 of 14.
Earlier this week, Turner—who is averaging 19.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and six assists a game—hinted he might return for his senior season with the Buckeyes rather than jump to the NBA. That was enough to make his coach daydream.
“The biggest thing I’ve talked to Evan about from the beginning of the season was don’t be one of those guys who plays with one foot out the door,” Matta said. “Evan in my mind he has been off the charts in keeping the focus on the job at hand, and that’s playing his best basketball. When the time is right, we’ll sit down and basically look at his options.”
After a pause, he cracked, “I’ve always said this, I want what’s best for the kids, and … you know, I want what’s best for me, too.”