|Coaches have trouble finding flaws in Evan Turner’s game. (Morry Gash/Associated Press)|
Healthy Turner powers Buckeyes
MILWAUKEE — He returned from a back injury to become perhaps the nation’s best player, and his late-game long shot to beat Michigan in the Big Ten tournament has been played over and over on highlight shows.
With the NBA player comparisons already flying, Evan Turner knows that a long run in the NCAA Tournament is just about the only thing that’s missing from his résumé.
Turner and No. 2-seeded Ohio State hope that tournament run begins tonight, with a first-round game against No. 15 seed UC-Santa Barbara.
After blowing a comfortable lead in last year’s opening-round loss to Siena, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said his team will be more focused this time around. The Gauchos, winners of the Big West tournament, have a strong scoring combination in guard Orlando Johnson and forward James Nunnally.
“We know what they’re capable of,’’ Gauchos guard James Powell said. “But [if] we come in scared or intimidated, then we pretty much lost the game before we even started.’’
Santa Barbara promises to play tough perimeter defense, then will keep its fingers crossed that its best outside shooters all get hot at the same time.
Still, UCSB coach Bob Williams knows what his team is facing in Turner, describing film study of the Buckeyes star as “a little bit like going to watch a horror movie.’’
“There’s really not a weakness in his game,’’ Williams said.
With a strong performance in the tournament, Turner could solidify his status as the game’s top collegiate player.
Turner had 25 points against Siena last year, but he was 8 for 18 from the field as the Buckeyes lost in double overtime.
Turner said the Buckeyes started making uncharacteristic mistakes in that game and ended up paying for it.
“I think we momentarily lost our minds,’’ Turner said.
But Matta knew something was wrong right away last year.
“I thought we were ready until the ball got tossed up, and I remember turning to the bench and saying, ‘We don’t look the same,’ ’’ Matta said.
The Buckeyes also didn’t look like themselves earlier this season, when Turner was missing because of an injury. He broke two bones in his back against Eastern Michigan Dec. 5, missing about a month.
He has been hard to guard since then, capping a stellar stretch of play with his 37-foot shot to beat Michigan.