A season of dreams or a season of disappointment?
Ohio State seemed poised for a run to the Final Four before Friday’s crippling loss to Tennessee left the team and Buckeye Nation in disarray.
The 76-73 meltdown left many questions unanswered.
What happened to Ohio State’s defense?
The Buckeyes started the game in a 1-3-1 zone defense, forcing Tennessee to move the ball around the perimeter before finding an open jump shot. The Volunteers pride their offense on cutting to the basket and punishing teams in the paint, which they did against the Bucks once OSU dropped the zone for a man-to-man scheme. The zone was effective, as the Buckeyes forced turnovers to grab an early 11-4 lead. But forward David Lighty quickly picked up a pair of fouls, forcing coach Thad Matta’s hand. When center Dallas Lauderdale needed a rest, it left backup Kyle Madsen and lanky forward Jon Diebler to anchor the interior, which spelled a recipe for disaster. Tennessee dominated Ohio State on the glass, holding a 41-29 advantage in rebounds. They also outscored the Buckeyes in the paint, 50-22. Despite missing 20 shot attempts in the post, Tennessee out-muscled the Buckeyes for enough loose balls and rebounds to create enough opportunities to rack up points.
Where did Turner’s teammates disappear to?
There’s no questioning what Big Ten Player of the Year Evan Turner is capable of. But no matter his output, the Buckeyes thrive only when he receives help, as the statistics illustrate. Take a look at the production from Turner’s mates in OSU’s last six games, three wins in the Big Ten Tournament, a pair of victories in the NCAA Tournament and the loss to Tennessee:
Ohio State 69, Michigan 68 (Mar. 12):
Turner: 18 points Lighty: 15 points Buford: 15 points
Ohio State 88, Illinois 81 (2OT, Mar. 13):
Turner: 31 points Buford: 22 points Diebler: 14 points
Ohio State 90, Minnesota 61 (Mar. 14):
Turner: 31 points Lighty: 20 points Diebler: 19 points
Ohio State 68, UC-Santa Barbara 51 (Mar. 19):
Turner: 9 points Diebler: 23 points Buford: 16 points
Ohio State 75, Georgia Tech 66 (Mar. 21):
Turner: 24 points Diebler: 20 points Lighty: 18 points
Tennessee 76, Ohio State 73 (Mar. 26):
Turner: 31 points Buford: 15 points Lighty: 9 points
Clearly, Turner lacked the support he had received on the Buckeyes’ recent tear. Diebler shot just 1-8 and had three points against Tennessee. Buford scored just one point after halftime. Turner was forced to take over every possession. He scored OSU’s first 14 points of the second half. The disappearing act by the supporting cast went a long way toward the Buckeye letdown.
Will Turner stay or leave?
The consensus opinion is that no player can pass up the opportunity to be a top-three selection in the NBA Draft after spending three years in college. But Turner has repeatedly declared his intentions to remain in school until he precisely pieces together his ideal legacy to leave behind. A loss in the Sweet 16 certainly doesn’t fit his dream scenario and Turner said after the game that he “can’t put a percentage right now. It’s just sticking in my head. I really don’t want to go out like this. I don’t even know.” Still, with the missed opportunity of advancing in the tournament fresh in his mind, it remains likely that Turner will take the necessary time to seek out the option that benefits him and his family the most. Should Turner surprise most and choose to return? Ohio State, bringing in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, should be ranked near or at the top heading into next season.