Buckeyes Best The Rest In Indy
Apparently all the Big Ten Tournament needed was a shot for the ages.
It was provided by none other than Evan Turner, Ohio State’s 6-7 point guard deluxe who had just been named the conference’s 2010 Player of the Year.
In the first a loaded slate of quarterfinal games on Friday – the day the tournament always seems to come alive – the top-seeded Buckeyes were facing a head-scratching two-point deficit. The crowd at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis was buzzing after Michigan guard Manny Harris made a high-arcing pull-up over the freakishly long arms of OSU center Dallas Lauderdale with just 2.2 seconds to play.
That’s when Turner launched a 37-foot jumper just before the horn and drilled a heart-ripping three, a play that was shown over and over on various sports networks throughout the weekend.
The Buckeyes survived 69-68 and ended Michigan’s season of disappointment with a losing record (15-17).
“I knew I only had two dribbles and I knew the whole thing was about staying calm and not rushing anything,” Turner told SportsRappUp.com. “A lot of times you see some players just shoot a floater or something crazy.”
Michigan coach John Beileien was skewered afterward by analysts and UM fans for not directing more pressure to be placed on Turner. The OSU junior caught David Lighty’s inbound pass just beyond the deep foul line and was able to get well across half court with two bounces of the ball.
Turner was among the stupefied.
“That was crazy,” he said. “All day they were trapping me and double-teaming me and all this nonsense. I don’t know why they did that.”
“I’m sure Coach Beilein is going to be living that one for many, many years (and) wake up with nightmares about that thing,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said hours later with Turner’s shot still the national topic du jour.
Weber, it turned out, would suffer his own nightmare the next day in the semifinals as the Illini fell victim to more Buckeye heroics in an 88-81 loss in double overtime.
Ohio State advanced to the Sunday championship game for the fourth time in five years but, again, it wasn’t easy. William Buford (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Lighty (12 points, four assists, three steals) played all 50 minutes and offered much-needed support to Turner, who logged 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Turner scored with 11 seconds left in regulation to send the gave to extra sessions and scored his team’s last six points in OT to tie the score at 75. Jon Diebler nailed a three on the first possession of the second overtime and the Buckeyes never looked back.
The unsung hero was key reserve – OK, Ohio State only regular bench player – Kyle Madsen. The 6-9 senior played a career-high 32 minutes in relief of the sluggish Lauderdale and made several key plays duirng a four-point, seven-rebound performance.
“Kyle was tremendous and I couldn’t be happier,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said. “He really picked up what we were doing defensively. I thought he went to the boards harder than he’s ever gone. I was very excited to see him play that way.”
Sixth-seeded Minnesota, which logged wins over Penn State (11-20) and Michigan State (24-8) earlier in the tourney, shook down a hapless-looking Purdue squad (27-5) in the other semi, 69-42. The intent Golden Gophers opened up a 26-4 lead and cruised home. However, playing a fourth game in four days proved too taxing, especially as the Buckeyes began to open up a sizable lead in the second half of the championship.
The Buckeyes led just 42-40 with 13 minutes to play when they put together a decisive 23-5 run. Lighty was unstoppable in the sequence with nine points, Diebler banged in a pair of threes and Turner was his usual brilliant self on both ends of the court in an eventual 90-61 blowout.
Ohio State (27-7), which shared the regular-season crown with Purdue and Michigan State, won its third Big Ten Tournament title in convincing fashion after a palpitating buildup.
“I think it puts some closure to a lot of things,” Matta said. “As I told these guys tonight after the game, Dec. 26 when we came back (from break) I said, ‘Look, we’ve got 19 battles and whatever the conference tournament brings.’ Today, after 22 straight battles, a war was decided and we won the war.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them. I think given some of the tests we had over here in Indianapolis the guys did a great job of playing through adversity, and coming out playing the second half the way we did today I couldn’t prouder of them.”
Turner had a nearly identical line in the championship as he did after the semifinal thriller, finishing with 31 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Surprisingly, he took five three-point shots and hit four of them.
“I was just trying to take what the defense gave me,” he said. “The first couple days they were trying to lock up my drives.”
Turner became the only player to score 30 or more points twice in one tournament and was the runaway choice for Most Outstanding Player. He was the fifth player to be voted Big Ten POY for the regular season and MOP of the tournament, joining Devin Harris of Wisconsin in 2004, Brian Cook of Illinois in 2003, Morris Peterson of Michigan State in 2000 and Mateen Cleaves of Michigan State in 1999.
“He’s incredible and he did some special things out there for us – all weekend,” Matta said.
Turner was joined on the 2010 all-tournament squad by teammates Lighty and Buford, Illinois guard Demetri McCamey and Minnesota guard Devoe Joseph.
There were no surprises on the first day of the event as Minnesota routed 11th-seeded Penn State, and Indiana (10-21) and Iowa (10-22) mercifully closed 10-win seasons with defeats at the hands of Northwestern and Michigan, respectively.
Northwestern bowed out to Purdue but still finished with 20 wins at 20-13. Illinois took out fourth-seeded Wisconsin (23-8).
Even with the dust cleared and the net on the north goal cut down by the Buckeyes, there was still an important league matter at hand: namely, the postseason fate of bubble teams Minnesota and Illinois.
It turned out that the NCAA selection committee put a lot of stock in the semifinal results from Saturday.
After his Illini dumped Wisconsin in the quarters, coach Bruce Weber began to make what became a weekend-long pitch for his team.
“We have, I believe, the fourth-most top-RPI wins in the country,” he said. “We have proven all year we can beat people.”
About 23 hours later, he knew UI was in limbo with a mark of 19-14.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Weber said after the OSU game. “Obviously I think we had a good showing here, but that doesn’t mean anything. Hopefully it’ll work out because I think we’re one of the top 65 teams in the country, and if we get in the tournament I think we can do some damage.”
Illinois only heard its name called during Sunday’s Selection Show on CBS in reference to teams that had their bubble burst.
Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers, meanwhile, were more fortunate. With a record of 21-13 and wins over MSU and Purdue in Indy, they rejoiced at the announcement of being an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament less than an hour after being drubbed by 29 points in the final.
“We got hot at the right time, these last few games,” Smith said after the game and before the brackets were unveiled. “I think it’s a great story line, guys that have had to overcome adversity this year. But I think the most important thing is I do think we’re one of the best 65 teams in the country.”
• Ohio State’s 90 points and 57.6 field-goal percentage in the win over Minnesota are championship game bests.
• Minnesota guard Blake Hoffarber set the school record for career three-pointers in the March 11 win over Penn State. The smooth-stroking lefty passed Michael Bauer’s total of 191 treys with his first made bomb against PSU.
• Wisconsin entered the tournament a perfect 22-0 on the season when leading or tied with 4:00 remaining in regulation. The Badgers never flirted with extending that string, though, trailing Illinois in the entire second half of a quarterfinal loss.
• Northwestern forward John Shurna set his school’s all-time single-season scoring mark. He arrived to Indianapolis third on that list but passed Dale Kelley (582, 1972) and Evan Eschmeyer (585, 1998) in a 14-point outing against Penn State.
• Illinois improved to a healthy 12-1 in Big Ten quarterfinal games after a 58-54 win over Wisconsin.
• Lauderdale entered the postseason as the Big Ten’s leader in field goal percentage at, get this, 77.1. Illinois big man Mike Tisdale was a very distant second at 57.0 during the regular season. Lauderdale needed to average three made field goals per game to qualify and was 91 of 118 in OSU’s 30-game regular season.
• Diebler made four threes in the win over Illinois to run his career total to a school-best 243. Jamar Butler was the previous record-holder with 242. A 6-6 sharpshooter, Diebler moved to the top of the list with a straight-on trey at the outset of the second overtime. He made a pair of free throws with 8:10 remaining in regulation to give him exactly 1,000 points in his career. He is the 45th Buckeye player to reach that plateau.
• Purdue is 42-1 in the Matt Painter era when it wins the rebounding and turnover battles. Not surprisingly, the embarrassing 69-42 loss to Minnesota can be equated to being battered on the boards by the Gophers to the tune of 50-26. PU also had 16 miscues to Minnesota’s 10.
• Iowa guard Devan Bawinkel was 0 of 1 from the field in with his only attempt coming from behind the arc. Why is that significant? Bawinkel shot only three-balls for the entire season, faring 32 of 84 in 32 games.
• The championship game marked the first time Ohio State and Minnesota had ever met in the 13-year history of the tournament.
• Minnesota’s first-day performance. The league’s most schizophrenic team took down Penn State in the 6-11 game, blowing to a 26-11 lead and cruising to a 76-55 win over a PSU team that had been competitive down the stretch of the regular season. The Gophers didn’t dilly-dally. They shot 58.0 percent from the field, 47.4 from three-point range and committed just eight turnovers compared to a like number of steals. The blowout marked just the fifth game in tournament history decided by 20 points or more.
• Northwestern hit 18 of 20 free throws in its first-round win over Indiana.
• Michigan’s second-half comeback against Ohio State. The Wolverines trailed by 10 at the break and by 13 midway through the second stanza when they began to earn their way to the free-throw line and bottom long-range jumpers. Then there was this matter of not guarding the Player of the Year well enough in the final seconds …
• Harris’ 22-point explosion in the second half of the battle with rival OSU. The Michigan guard hit an array of tough pull-ups and bombs in charging his team back.
• The Purdue pep band’s bellowing version of “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “Sweet Caroline.”
• Iowa freshman point guard Cully Payne in the Hawkeyes’ first-day loss to Michigan. The crafty lefty scored 25 of his team’s 52 points and cashed 5 of 10 three-point attempts. Unfortunately, his teammates were a combined 0 of 10 from long range.
• The semifinal between Ohio State and Illinois, especially the two overtimes. It was the first double-OT contest in the tourney and the highest-scoring game in the event since the Buckeyes downed Illinois 94-88 in the 2002 semis.
• Minnesota big men Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III, who rebounded, defended well and hurt teams with high-low play. Iverson finished the tournament 18 of 24 from the field.
• Purdue coach Matt Painter’s more-than-deserved, animated tirade while he dressed down his team during a timeout trailing Minnesota 37-9. It worked. The Boilermakers moved into double digits as center JaJuan Johnson rolled in a floater at the halftime buzzer. Hooray!
• Indiana’s collapse in a 73-58 loss to Northwestern on the first day. The Hoosiers led by as many as eight points and built up a six-point lead (45-39) with 12 minutes to play when the wheels fell off. NU rattled off a 10-0 run to gain control thanks to 5:44 spell in which the Hoosiers missed five consecutive shots and lost the ball on six other possessions. Indiana ended up committing 19 turnovers on the evening.
• The officiating in the OSU-Michigan game. In the first 13:47 of the game each team had accumulated just two team fouls, but the zebras made up for it with eight foul calls in the first seven minutes of the second half. The Buckeyes were dinged for four fouls in the first half and 11 in the suddenly tighter second.
• Beilein’s decision to have just one player, Stu Douglass, pressuring in the backcourt on the fateful Turner heave play. William Buford was able to pick Douglass on the inbounds and not a single UM player stepped up to distract Turner.
• Illinois being unable to get off a shot at the end of regulation and overtime in the heartbreaking setback against Ohio State.
• The conference’s promotion of “Big Ten Icons,” which entailed people with giant head-likenesses of former conference hoop stars. Frightening.
• Purdue’s entire first-half performance in a semifinal loss to Minnesota was, in a word, dreadful. The Boilers made just five of 27 shots (18.5 percent) and were stuck on four points
• Penn State “improved” to 0-6 as a No. 11 seed. The real shame of that, of course, is the six opportunities as a league doormat.
• Trevon Hughes of Wisconsin was prominent on All-Big Ten lists but he probably would have jumped into a trap door if he could have found one in the Conseco hardwood. He missed his first 11 shots in the loss to Illinois and committed a key turnover with his team trying to rally. Meanwhile, his backcourt mate, Jason Bohannon, was a woeful 1 of 10 from the floor.
• Illinois’ end-of-game management against Wisconsin. The Illini led from their opening possession, opened up an advantage of 16 with 6:45 to play and still led by 10 at the 1:41 mark. However, Bohannon actually was able to fire off a potential game-tying three with 18 seconds to play and UI clinging to a tenuous 57-54 lead.
• Michigan State’s effort at the free-throw line in a 72-67 overtime loss to Minnesota – 18 of 34. That’s just 52.9 percent.
Quips & Quotes
Smith on the idea of expanding the NCAA Tournament field from 65 teams to 96 – “I think it would be a great idea. When I first got in the business in 1978, ’79, there might have been 100 Division I teams. Now there’s 347. Just like football. When they increased, they increased the number of bowl games. So why not increase the opportunities for these student-athletes to participate and enjoy and be a part of March Madness? I think it’s long overdue, to be honest with you.”
Beilein on the same topic – “I’ve never been in favor of that. Being a guy who was in the low majors to mid-majors and the high-majors. I just think it’s really a great tournament right now. Now, they may know more than I know. I think it’s really nice and tight right now and we probably should keep it that way. But I’ll do whatever people say. And if we’re the 96th team in sometime, I’ll be happy about it.”
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody after his team made just 7 of 31 three-point attempts at Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers – “I was just thinking about Reggie Miller. I was thinking, ‘How does he make all those shots?’ It’s unbelievable. That’s why I always voted for Chicago, keeping the Big Ten Tournament there, because I just hate the rims. Nothing about the city. It’s closer, collegiate, all that stuff. I just hate the rims.”
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo on his team’s lousy free-throw shooting vs. Minnesota – “That’s never happened, and it’s my fault because I ran these guys into the ground. We don’t do what Ohio State does. I played Kalin (Lucas) and these guys stretches that they were so tired by the end that they missed free throws.”
Matta on Beilein’s decision to allow Turner to dribble across half court – “John Beilein has won more games than I’ll ever win, so I’m never going to try to think of what he’s thinking. I’m not that smart.”
Turner on staring at the crowd with frozen body language after nailing his 37-foot game-winner against Michigan – “You definitely have to have a little swag after you do something like that. It wasn’t anything like LeBron James but I was trying to stop myself from running around and screaming like a girl.”
OSU’s David Lighty on Illinois’ chatty approach to the semifinals – “They had a reason to talk. They were winning. But when we went on a 20-0 run that stopped real quick.”
Matta on Jon Diebler setting a new school career record for made three-pointers during the win over Illinois – “I think it speaks volumes. If he had made a couple as a freshman he would have passed it a year ago. But I’m happy for Jon. Jon flies under the radar screen for his career here, but I know how important he is, I know how good he is and I love the kid to death.”
Lighty, who checked guards and even the 6-11 Sampson during the tournament, on not being named to the conference’s all-defensive team – “My mom was more mad about it than I was. She was angry, but I told her, ‘You can’t vote on it, I can’t vote on it, don’t worry about it.’ “