Ohio State outlasts UC Santa Barbara 68-51
MILWAUKEE (AP)—After making a late layup, Evan Turner turned to run back down the court, shaking his head.
It was supposed to be another chance for the Ohio State star to stand out on a big stage. Instead, it was one of the worst shooting nights of his career.
As it turns out, that didn’t matter at all for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes leaned on the slick shooting of a sick player, Jon Diebler, and defensive domination by Dallas Lauderdale for a 68-51 victory over persistent UC Santa Barbara in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday night.
“I can’t picture another game being like this,” Turner said. “It’s cool. I’m glad my teammates picked us up.”
Diebler scored 23 points and Lauderdale blocked a career-high eight shots and grabbed 12 rebounds for the second-seeded Buckeyes (28-7), who won without much offense from their top player.
Diebler’s performance was particularly impressive, given the fact that he spent the week fighting off flulike symptoms.
“I knew I was going to be fine,” he said. “Yesterday I felt a little better after the practice—after I threw up.”
Joked Buckeyes coach Thad Matta, “He’s the only guy that takes the 24-hour flu to 72 hours.”
Turner was held to nine points on 2-of-13 shooting from the field. He did have 10 rebounds, and William Buford added 16 points for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State advanced to play Sunday against No. 10 seed Georgia Tech, which beat seventh-seeded Oklahoma State 64-59 on Friday.
Orlando Johnson scored 20 points for No. 15 seed UC Santa Barbara (20-10).
The game was expected to be a showcase for Turner, the Big Ten player of the year and widely regarded as the leading candidate for national player of the year.
Instead, the most impressive parts of Ohio State’s game were a sampling of swatted shots and a couple of big dunks by Lauderdale, and the stellar outside shooting of Diebler, who was 7 of 12 from 3-point range.
“I didn’t realize he was sick,” Gauchos coach Bob Williams joked. “That makes me feel a whole better. Certainly glad the kid wasn’t healthy, he might have been 10 out of 15.”
Turner, meanwhile, seemed to have a rough night against the Gauchos’ matchup zone defense.
“Evan, he was struggling a little bit but also did a good job of finding the open guy,” Diebler said. “We knew coming in they come at you with unique zones. We felt there were ways we could attack it.”
Afterward, Turner said he was happy that his teammates picked him up—but surprised at just how much contact the officials allowed.
“They just let the game go, you know what I’m saying?” Turner said. “I can’t picture another game being called like that.”
Turner did leave the court with something he didn’t have before: a win in the NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes didn’t make it to the tournament in his freshman year, then lost in the first round last season. Returning to the tournament this year, Ohio State vowed it wouldn’t come out flat.
Still, the Buckeyes did allow the Gauchos a few glimmers of hope before Lauderdale and Diebler eventually took over.
A transition dunk by Greg Somogyi cut the Buckeyes’ lead to eight early in the second half.
But Diebler hit a 3-pointer and Lauderdale briefly asserted himself on the offensive end, scoring on powerful dunks on back-to-back possessions.
David Lighty then hit a 3-pointer, giving Ohio State a 42-27 lead with 15:04 left.
Still, the Gauchos didn’t go away, cutting the lead to 10 on a 3-pointer by James Powell with 11:41 to go.
But the Buckeyes gradually pulled away from there, taking a 57-42 lead on Diebler’s 3 with 7:26 left.
Afterward, Matta praised Turner for his composure and commitment to playing defense despite the rough shooting night.
And as the Buckeyes move on, Turner’s coach is expecting more offense.
“He’ll be back,” Matta said.