At times last year, the Ohio State men’s basketball team seemed to have one plan: get the ball to Evan Turner and get out of the way.
This season, however, the Buckeyes appear to have discovered an alternative.
The early emergence of David Lighty and Jon Diebler as viable scoring options has given OSU some much-needed versatility.
“I’ve been saying all along we have the greatest wings in the country,” center Dallas Lauderdale said.
While Lauderdale’s claim might be slightly hyperbolic, there is no denying the Buckeyes have ability on the perimeter.
Lighty, who in his first two years at OSU was known more for his defensive prowess rather than his ability to score, is averaging 12.3 points per game this season and scored a career-high 22 in last week’s win over Lipscomb.
Diebler is scoring nearly 16 points a game and leads the Big Ten in three-pointers made per game.
If they continue to score at their current pace, it will remove a lot of pressure from Turner, who has been double, triple and even quadruple-teamed by opponents at times this season. With the Buckeyes’ hot shooting, Turner said the defense will have more to worry about.
“Once I get past the three-point line, there was a second man coming and once I get in the paint there were three men coming,” Turner said. “If they’re going to do that, they’ll pick their poison.”
Turner said he will simply take whatever the defense will give him.
“If I’m open I’m going to take the shot; if I’m not I’m going to dish it off,” Turner said. “I just want to play and make sure my team wins.”
However, the Buckeyes have already seen what can happen on a night when their shooters are struggling.
In the first half of OSU’s loss to North Carolina on Nov. 19, the Buckeyes shot only 29 percent from the field, leaving them in an insurmountable 14-point hole at halftime.
Diebler and sophomore William Buford headlined the shooting woes, going a combined 7-29 from the field.
Though Diebler seems to have successfully escaped any potential slump, Buford is still struggling to find his shot. Buford is shooting 38 percent from the field, something that coach Thad Matta said needs to change in order for his team to be successful.
“Will is a guy that, he obviously wants to play well,” Matta said. “But by the same token, Will likes to win and we need Will to play well in order for us to win.”
Regardless of how much Buford or any of the other Buckeyes are contributing, the onus will fall on Turner to lead the way on the offensive end. Fortunately for OSU, Turner has had no trouble carrying the load.
The Buckeye point guard is third in the Big Ten in scoring, and leads the conference in rebounds and assists — gaudy numbers that have earned him conference Player of the Week honors in each of the last three weeks.
Turner knows that as he goes, so go the Buckeyes.
“When the coach calls my number I try to do my best with it,” Turner said. “If my team needs a boost, I’m confident enough to give them a boost. If the game is close and we need scores, I’ve been doing that in the past and I plan on doing that in the future.”