By Hans Hetrick
I believe Evan Turner can take an inbounds pass from under the opposition’s basket at the key, bring the ball 40 feet up the floor in two dribbles, jump stop into the air, and drain a 37-foot jump shot to beat Michigan at the buzzer—all in under 2.2 seconds. I believe he can rim in a baseline 3-pointer, pick Mike Tisdale’s pocket, and glide down the court for an uncontested dunk to spark a 20-0 Buckeye run in the second half of the Illinois game. I believe Evan Turner can lead The Ohio State Buckeyes to the promised-land in Indianapolis on April 3rd, 2010.
If Buckeye fans haven’t come to believe His Royal Smoothness (Turner) and the Buckeyes are capable of the impossible this year, Turner’s performance in first two games of the Big Ten tournament might have changed their minds.
Ohio State withstood the tremendous torrent of Michigan’s and Illinois’ A-games to put themselves into the Big Ten championship game. With their backs against the wall, the Wolverines and the Illini walked onto court determined to stymie Turner and play themselves into the NCAA tournament.
Turner was hounded relentlessly throughout both games. His Royal Smoothness was greeted with stiff defense on the other side of every screen and spin move. Still Turner discovered ways to make a difference.
Against Michigan, Turner responded to the stiff defense with eight assists. William “Slinky” Buford and David Lighty picked up the slack with 15 points each. The Buckeyes led the majority of the second half, but the Wolverines clawed their way back from a double-digit deficit. Michigan’s Manny Harris was brilliant down the stretch, and it seemed he had won the game for Michigan with a sweet little 12-foot jumper over an outstretched Dallas Lauderdale.
But Turner conjured up that 37-foot jump shot, refusing to allow defeat. And Ohio State fans were allowed to enjoy wonderful camera shots of dejected maize and blue clad Michigan fans, open-mouthed in disbelief. His Royal Smoothness’ last second heroics just might have secured him the National Player of the Year award.
Against Illinois, Turner put up 31 points in a double overtime game despite a superb defensive effort from D.J. Richardson. It was a familiar scene to Buckeye fans as Turner controlled the pace of the game and got to the foul line over and over again in the final minutes of the game. The Buckeyes finally outlasted the hard playing, trash talking Illini in the second overtime.
Although Turner created a number of sublime moments, they were somewhat overshadowed by the team’s long stretches of impotence. The Buckeye’s offense disappeared several times during the two games sometimes for five minutes or more.
There’s only so much the Turner magic can overcome. Ohio State will require some magic from the whole line-up to reach the promised land. If the Buckeye’s face a Kansas, a Kentucky, or a Syracuse, or any hot team in the tournament, they’ll need to be within striking distance in crunch time. Then Turner can take over.
That means no slacking and no dilly-dallying. Thad Matta’s six-deep rotation needs to put in the full forty. Let’s hope they’ve run enough wind sprints in practice to make it happen.
When asked for the key to the Buckeye’s reaching their post-season goals, Turner ended his statement saying, “Be relentless.” Let’s go Bucks. Show us something amazing.