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Turner returns to spark Buckeyes past Indiana

COLUMBUS — Evan Turner returned to Ohio State’s lineup for the first time in more than a month. It was like he had never left.

Jon Diebler scored 21 points and Turner returned early from an injury to give Ohio State a boost in a 79-54 victory over Indiana on Wednesday night.

“I was fortunate enough to go up and dunk — you know, land on my feet this time,” Turner joked.

Turner played his first game since breaking two bones in his lower back while dunking during the Buckeyes’ Dec. 5 victory over Eastern Michigan. The original prognosis was that he would be out eight weeks, but he was back in 4 1/2 weeks. He had eight points, five assists and five rebounds in 19 minutes for the Buckeyes (11-4, 1-2 Big Ten), who had lost their first two Big Ten games on the road without Turner.

“I’m not going to lie. In the second half I was running down the middle and I was thinking, ’Man, this happened like a month ago!’ So I just kicked it out (to the corner),” Turner said. “Other than that, I’m not worried about dunking. If I had to redo that same play over again, I’d do it. It was just a freak accident.”

Turner had established himself as one of the best all-around players in the nation before he was injured. Playing point guard for the first time in his career, the 6-foot-7 junior was leading the Buckeyes in scoring (18.5 points), rebounding (11.4) and assists (six). He was met with a standing ovation when he was announced as a starter before the game.

Turner appeared to be somewhat tentative on one-on-one moves early in the game. Nonetheless, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said he was just pleased to have him back in action.

“One of my all-time favorite lines from the Blue Brothers movie is, ’It’s good to put the band back together tonight,”’ Matta said.

“I thought (Evan) was good. It’s funny because last night in practice he was a little bit sloppy with the ball. You could tell that he hadn’t done anything.”

Matta said Turner would get better the more he played after the long layoff.

“I was pretty pleased,” he said. “I don’t know what he said up here, but he appeared to be pretty comfortable and confident. I was glad to see him get knocked down and pick himself up, which was huge. And also see him dunk.”

William Buford added 16 points for Ohio State.

Diebler, also Turner’s roommate, said the entire team got a lift when it found out that Turner was going to play.

“Everyone was very excited just because you had that extra threat in a guy like Evan who can do it all,” he said. “We just seemed like we were clicking on all cylinders tonight.”

Verdell Jones III had 22 points and Christian Watford 11 for the Hoosiers (7-7, 1-1), playing their first game on an opposing team’s home court this season.

“We were not tough enough,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean, who declined to talk about Turner. “We were not aggressive enough at either end of the court. We played like a team on its first road game.”

Indiana was coming off its biggest win of the season, a 71-65 upset of Michigan on Sunday. That was also the Hoosiers’ first game without their leading scorer, freshman Maurice Creek, who sustained a knee injury in the Dec. 28 game against Bryant and had season-ending surgery the next day.

“We did not have the fighting spirit we practiced with and that we played with against Michigan,” Crean said. “We have to build more of a nasty dispostion.”

Ahead by 18 at the break, Ohio State slowly pulled away in the second half to double the score at 58-29. Indiana never threatened again.

The Hoosiers had 24 turnovers and shot just 34 percent from the field.

A lack of offense stymied the Hoosiers. They had only three field goals in the opening 15 1/2 minutes and trailed 31-8 after the Buckeyes went on a 26-4 run. Turner had a dunk and a free throw early for Ohio State, along with an assist and two rebounds, but also picked up two fouls.

The Buckeyes have won the last three meetings and five of the last seven against Indiana.

Ohio State box

OHIO STATE 79, INDIANA 54

INDIANA (7-7)

Watford 3-7 3-4 11, Pritchard 1-1 0-0 2, Hulls 0-5 2-2 2, Rivers 2-8 0-1 4, Jones III 7-16 7-8 22, Barnett 0-0 0-0 0, Finkelmeier 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 1-1 0-0 3, Muniru 1-1 0-0 2, Capobianco 0-1 0-0 0, Gambles 0-0 0-0 0, Elston 1-5 0-0 2, Dumes 2-8 2-2 6, Jobe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-53 14-17 54.

OHIO STATE (11-4)

Lauderdale 2-4 1-2 5, Turner 2-5 4-6 8, Lighty 2-5 2-4 6, Diebler 6-10 4-5 21, Buford 6-11 3-3 16, Simmons 2-7 3-4 8, Hill 1-2 6-8 9, Days 0-0 0-0 0, Peters 0-1 0-0 0, Madsen 1-1 0-0 2, Kecman 2-4 0-0 4, Titus 0-0 0-0 0, Sarikopoulos 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-52 23-32 79.

Halftime—Ohio St. 38-20. 3-Point Goals—Indiana 4-18 (Watford 2-3, Moore 1-1, Jones III 1-5, Rivers 0-1, Capobianco 0-1, Dumes 0-2, Hulls 0-5), Ohio St. 8-19 (Diebler 5-8, Hill 1-1, Buford 1-3, Simmons 1-4, Turner 0-1, Kecman 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Indiana 35 (Rivers 8), Ohio St. 35 (Buford 6). Assists—Indiana 9 (Rivers 5), Ohio St. 16 (Turner 5). Total Fouls—Indiana 22, Ohio St. 20. A—13,712.