Turner out 8 weeks with broken back

Published 11:53 pm Saturday, December 5, 2009

COLUMBUS — Ohio State star Evan Turner will miss 8 weeks after breaking bones in his back when he fell while dunking during Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan.

Initial X-rays indicated no serious injuries, but Buckeyes athletic trainer Vince O’Brien said later tests found transverse process fractures of the second and third lumbar vertebra of Turner’s spine.

“My primary concern right now is Evan’s long-term health and well-being,” said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. “Evan was to this point in the season the best player in college basketball. We have been through tough situations before and our guys will regroup and prepare for the rest of our season starting with Butler next week in Indianapolis.”

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The injury occurred after the junior swingman drove the lane and was fouled going up for a dunk with 13:27 left in the first half of the No. 15 Buckeyes’ game against Eastern Michigan.

Turner missed the dunk and hung on the rim with his feet flying into a nearly horizontal position, before falling on his back under the basket. He spent several minutes on the floor before walking with help to the locker room.

The Buckeyes (7-1), leading 15-5 at the time of the spill, went on to a 111-60 victory.

Turner, who came into the game averaging 20.6 points and 12.9 rebounds, was taken to The Ohio State University Medical Center for X-rays of his lower back. Initial tests showed no broken bones or substantial damage, but Matta said Turner would undergo more intensive tests before leaving the hospital. That is when the spinal breaks were noticed.

After the game, Matta said it appeared Turner would be fine.

“Everything looked good on the X-ray,” Matta said. “I haven’t seen the fall yet, but we’re obviously thinking about him and hoping that everything’s going to be OK.”

Turner’s injury marks the second year in a row at almost the same point in the season that one of the Buckeyes’ top players has been sidelined.

Last season, David Lighty, the team captain and most experienced player, broke his foot in the seventh game and missed the rest of the season. The Buckeyes, with Turner playing an increasingly larger role, went 22-11 before losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Turner’s stock rose so high that he considered jumping to the NBA after the season, but elected to return. He recorded two triple doubles in Ohio State’s first five games — the second and third triple-doubles ever for a Buckeye.

Ohio State is off the next week for final exams and will play next at Butler on Saturday.