Evan Turner made one final regular season case for conference MVP scoring 10 of Ohio State's 14 points over the final 6:47 helping the Buckeyes hold off Northwestern 52-47 this afternoon in the Schott.
Turner finished with 17 on the day, none bigger than his 17 foot jumper with :06 left on the shot clock, :23 on the game clock, putting OSU in front 50-47 setting up a wild sequence of events culminating with Turner partially blocking a Luka Mirkovic triple try with :04 left before Jon Diebler iced it with two free throws.
Though we know better, it looked like a second half uprising wouldn't be necessary as OSU jumped on Northwestern early using a 16-3 run backed by two triples from Diebler and five points each from Turner and Wil Buford to take a 21-6 lead with 10:57 left in the half.
The Wildcats responded by switching from man to a 1-3-1 zone and promptly went on a 9-0 run to to cut it to 21-16 before a jumper and two free throws from Buford gave OSU a 25-15 lead at the break.
Though the offense struggled to solve the 1-3-1, Matta's habitual mostly zone strategy held steady forcing Northwestern to miss 11 of 13 three point tries and nine turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.
There was little carryover to start the second, however as Northwestern went on a 13-0 run after a Mullens dunk opened the half allowing the Wildcats to take a 28-27 lead with 12:15 remaining. The purple team shot 5/8 during the blitz while the Buckeyes were held scoreless for nearly seven minutes and missed nine of their first ten field goal attempts.
Soon after, Matta and company finally found a solution to the 1-3-1 in the form of B.J. Mullens. Taking advantage of smaller Northwestern defenders at the back of the zone, Mullens scored eight straight points on a combo of alley oops and put backs putting OSU in front 37-32 with 8:30 to play.
Of course, Northwestern would respond with a barrage of three triples (Moore 2, Coble) to take a 41-39 lead with 5:44 left but Turner-Time was already officially underway.
Besides three assists to Mullens during the big man's mini-run and the aforementioned dagger with :23 left, Turner also showed us a sick spinning drive and scoop lay in and a nifty pull up jumper off a whirling drive from the top of the key before his clutch defensive play on Mirkovic cemented the win.
He did have four turnovers and disappeared for a bit early in the second half but he again showed an ability to put the team on his back when they need him most. For me, his performance locked up the Big Ten MVP award but my gut says Kalin Lucas will grab the trophy as the best player on the best team.
Still, take Turner off this team and they don't win five conference games. Take Lucas off Sparty and they still finish top three. Talor Battle is a pimp is his own right but not as big a piece of PSU's puzzle.
Scanning the box, OSU placed four in double figures led by Turner's 17, coming on 7/11 shooting, with five assists. Diebler (3/7 3FG) and Buford (4/11 FG) added 11 each. Buford also pulled down a career high eight boards. Mullens was the last in doubles with ten points, all in the second half.
The victory moved Ohio State to 10-8, good for fourth place (tied) in the final conference standings. A likely win by Wisconsin over Indiana today (Wisc up 40-23 at press time) sets up a Buckeyes versus Badgers quarterfinal tilt on Friday (2:30pm). If Wisky loses, it's Penn State.
- It looks like Dallas is going to live after he sprained his shoulder courtesy of a Himilayan Arm Chop from Kevin "My Mom's on TV more than Obama" Coble. (I know the story behind it - just sayin')
- Northwestern still hasn't beaten OSU in Columbus since 1977. (29-0)
- After starting 2/13 from deep, Northwestern hit 7/14 the rest of the way.