Andy Gottesman / The Lantern
Evan Turner has always spoken about leaving his mark on the Ohio State basketball program. The junior has made it clear that before he leaves Columbus he wants to win a championship, be it Big Ten or NCAA.
But as many are predicting, if the Buckeye point guard will be a top five pick in next year’s NBA draft, his time is running out. Turner has yet to win a conference championship, and after last week’s loss to Purdue, it seemed as though OSU’s chances for a title this year had again gone by the wayside.
With a trip to East Lansing, Mich. to play the conference’s first place team looming, the Buckeyes sat behind both Purdue and Michigan State in the standings. A loss on Sunday would likely have ended any hope of an OSU championship, making the game as important as a regular season game can get.
But after the Buckeyes’ 74-67 win, the title hopes are still alive. OSU moved into a tie for second with the Spartans, trailing only Purdue by half a game. But although the win may have saved their season for the time being, the Buckeyes would still need a Boilermaker loss to win the conference.
Junior guard David Lighty said he and his team still have high hopes.
“We can’t control our own destiny now,” Lighty said after the loss to Purdue. “We need help. We let one go I guess you could say, but we’re still in the race so we got to focus on the future.”
Lighty is the only player, other than Danny Peters and Mark Titus, left from the ‘06-’07 season — the last time OSU won a conference championship. But Lighty said that OSU team had four future NBA players — “that was like cheating with the team we had.”
Now, Lighty has his sights set on winning a title for those on the team that have yet to win one.
“That’s what we all want to do,” Lighty said. “There’s not too many of us on the team with a [championship] ring.”
Although it is Lighty that has the only experience with winning a championship, it is Turner that has been the most vocal about the potential title.
“It’s something Evan has been preaching since before the season,” Lighty said. “We don’t want to come to Ohio State and leave without leaving our mark, and a Big Ten championship is the start.”
Coach Thad Matta referred to Turner as “one of the most competitive players [he’s] ever coached,” and for the Buckeyes’ best player, winning takes a back seat to nothing. Turner said that even though his team may not have won a championship before, it knows what it is going to take.
“We all know what’s at stake,” Turner said. “We can only control stuff we control, and we are definitely going to try and control our effort.”
Step one, Turner said, is to heed the advice of his coach and forget what has happened thus far and focus solely on what lies ahead.
“Coach Matta told me, he said, ‘Why do you think the windshield is way bigger than the rearview mirror?” Turner said. “He was like, ‘because what’s behind you doesn’t really matter. It’s what’s in front of you that counts.”
So whether or not this is Turner’s final season in an OSU uniform, his goal remains clear. Although he may end the year with a mantle full of individual accolades, without a Big Ten title, nothing else matters.
“It would mean everything,” Turner said. “If you don’t win, you’re not anything.”