Ohio State guard Evan Turner, who was injured in early December, might be returning to the court much sooner than expected. The junior practiced with the team Tuesday night and, depending on how he feels today, could be in the line-up for the Buckeyes’ game against Indiana tonight.
Turner told a source close to The Lantern on Dec. 15 that he expected to return in three weeks.
The junior had tests done Monday to check the progress of the fractures in his lower back that have kept him sidelined for the Buckeyes’ last six games. Coach Thad Matta is awaiting news from team doctors and says he’s hoping to get word soon that “everything is good to go.”
If Turner is able to return, it would be nearly a full month earlier than the eight weeks he was expected to miss immediately following the injury, but Turner himself had previously indicated that his rehab was coming along faster than expected.
“He was telling me the Minnesota game [on Jan. 9] or the Purdue game [on Jan. 12],” Matta said about Turner’s possible return. “Honestly, I’ve stayed out of it. I’m not a doctor.”
Matta did say, however, that he will not rush Turner back into the mix, citing a concern for his player’s future.
“It’s an unfortunate situation, but I’ll take my competitiveness and I’ll take all that out the window to protect one of my players,” he said.
If he was to return tonight, it would likely not be in a starting role, but rather he would come off the bench. Either way, a final decision might not be made until game time, Matta said.
His return, be it tonight or later this week, could not come at a better time for the Buckeyes, who have begun the Big Ten season with back-to-back losses and have dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time all season.
The Buckeyes are in desperate need of a win against the Hoosiers and can ill-afford to begin the Big Ten season 0-3, especially given the two-game road trip to Minnesota and Purdue that awaits them following tonight’s home game.
“The main thing is we just have to stay positive,” junior guard Jon Diebler said. “We’re eager to play again. We just came off two losses, but we’re still positive and our margin for error is really small right now.”
Though Matta agreed that the Buckeyes need to get back on track, he was not necessarily willing to deem this game a “must-win.”
“I think that any time you’re in a conference race, to me every game is crucial,” Matta said. “There’s so much basketball to be played, not just by us, but by every team in the league.
The good thing for us is after next Tuesday we’ll be halfway done with our road games.”
Matta said that it is “very” rare for a team to begin a conference schedule playing four out of five games on the road and joked that he planned to find every coach in the country that was faced with a similar schedule, and take them and their families on a Hawaiian vacation.
“My wife asked me, ‘why would you want to go by yourself?'” he said. “But I don’t even care. It’s the schedule they gave us and we have to play it.”
As for Indiana, the Hoosiers arrive in Columbus on the heels of a 71-65 win over Michigan last Thursday. However, their leading scorer, Maurice Creek, fractured his knee early in the second half of a Dec. 28 game against Bryant University, and is likely out for the remainder of the season.
Matta said that even without Creek, and even though Indiana finished last year last in the conference, he expects the Hoosiers to be tough.
“They are looking to push the ball up the floor and try to hit quick in transition,” he said.”From what I’ve seen, they’re playing well.”
Though Diebler seconded his coach’s sentiments regarding the Hoosiers, he knows that if Turner were to return, the Buckeyes will be tough to beat.
“You can’t say enough about Evan because he does so much on the court,” Diebler said. “Yeah he fills up the stat sheet, but the little things he does that don’t show up on the stat sheet, that’s what really makes us go as a basketball team.
“Getting him back to complete the unit is going to make us that much better.”