Rewind to last week, in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Ohio State men’s basketball team had just seen a second-half lead disappear in the wake of an 11-0 Wolverine run that left the Buckeyes down ten points.
On the road in the Big Ten, trailing late in the second half, OSU needed someone to step up. They needed someone who could put the team on their back and carry them to victory.
Six days later, at Minnesota, the Buckeyes again led in the second half, but after a 14-1 Minnesota run, OSU again needed an answer.
In neither game, however, did the Buckeyes find that answer, and both ended in OSU losses.
Fast forward to Tuesday in West Lafayette, Ind.
With just more than four minutes remaining in the game, a dunk by Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson had just given the Boilermakers a 62-52 lead. Coach Thad Matta immediately took a timeout, sending an already raucous Mackey Arena into a frenzy.
It appeared the be the proverbial knockout blow that OSU had unfortunately become accustomed to early in the Big Ten season. Down 10 late, the Buckeyes were staring a 1-4 conference record directly in the face.
Evan Turner, however, had other plans.
The junior guard, who said prior to the game that he hoped to “make sure the crowd doesn’t have anything to cheer about,” did exactly that down the stretch. He promptly went on a 12-0 run by himself, giving the Buckeyes the lead with less than two minutes to play.
After a Purdue basket tied the game, Turner made two free throws, and gave the Buckeyes a lead they would not relinquish, eventually beating the Boilermakers 70-66.
“I thought Evan was pretty good,” coach Thad Matta said after the game.
Matta was clearly understating Turner’s performance; he was more than pretty good. Turner was nothing short of outstanding. He finished the game with a career-high 32 points, 23 of which came in the second half. More importantly, in a situation that the
Buckeyes had failed to find success in so many times this season, he was able to almost single-handedly propel his team to a win.
To put the performance in perspective, Turner was so good that he was able to outshine Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, who scored 29 points in just the first half of Tuesday’s game.
Hummel tied a Boilermaker record with eight 3-pointers and put on perhaps the most prolific shooting display in Purdue basketball history. But because of Turner’s late-game heroics, he was little more than back page news.
The importance of the OSU comeback, however, encompasses more than just the one victory. The Buckeyes, in the latter stages of Tuesday’s game, showed a resiliency that this team had lacked all year. It was the kind of performance that has the potential to be a springboard for the rest of the season.
Obviously it remains to be seen how the Buckeyes will fare after the impressive win; it is a gigantic step in the right direction after what had been a shaky start to conference play.
A win over Purdue, the defending Big Ten tournament champion, in a building that nobody on the team had ever won in before, might be evidence that this team is plenty capable of competing for a conference crown.