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Ohio State trying to regroup without Evan Turner

SHANNON RYAN / ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The Buckeyes star will be out for two months with a broken back after falling after a dunk against Eastern Michigan. He was averaging 31.5 minutes, 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

December 08, 2009|By Shannon Ryan
  • Ohio State's Evan Turner is helped off the court after he fell while dunking against Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
Ohio State's Evan Turner is helped off the court after he fell while… (Terry Gilliam / Associated…)

Talk about a bad break.

Ohio State will need to learn to exist without its top player, who is probably the best player in the Big Ten and quite possibly the nation. When Evan Turner fell seven feet onto his back after a dunk in the first half of a blowout victory against Eastern Michigan, Value City Arena was silent.

Buckeyes fans might still be holding their breath after it was revealed the junior swingman -- averaging 31.5 minutes, 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists -- will miss two months with a broken back.

Stranger yet, this isn't the first time Ohio State has dealt with an injury to a player the team leaned on. Almost exactly a year ago, David Lighty broke his foot in the seventh game and missed the remainder of the season as the Buckeyes went 22-11 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament while Turner emerged as a star.

"Our guys will regroup and prepare for the rest of our season," Ohio State Coach Thad Matta said after the game.

It's hard to imagine the Buckeyes as an elite team without Turner.

Instead of being hyped as a showdown between two ranked teams, the Buckeyes' first game without Turner -- against Butler on Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse -- will provide a glimpse of what shape they take. Already limited in size and depth, now they have to find ways to contend without their star.

Guard Jon Diebler is second on the team with 17.1 points per game, and three other players are in the 11-point range, including Lighty. But Turner's impact is unquantifiable.

"Evan was to this point in the season the best player in college basketball," Matta said.

Bottoms up

After hearing all preseason about a "down year," the Big East hardly looks like a rebuilding conference.

The Big East has six teams in the Associated Press top 25 this week, including three -- No. 3 Villanova, No. 6 West Virginia and No. 7 Syracuse -- in the top 10.

Every team is at least two games over .500.

The Big East can't thank perennial NCAA tournament entrant Louisville, which has tanked. This is in large part thanks to surprising play by Syracuse and Cincinnati, which started the season unranked.

Swish of the week

Charlotte. It doesn't matter who's on the court, Freedom Hall is a tough place to play. The 49ers stunned a Louisville team without injured guards Peyton Siva, Preston Knowles and Jerry Smith and should be considered a threat in the Atlantic 10.

Brick of the week

Portland. Just a week after getting a swish, the Pilots couldn't take life in the limelight. They beat Oregon, UCLA and Minnesota to enter the top 25 for the first time in 50 years, then dropped consecutive games to West Virginia, Portland State and Idaho to drop out of the rankings.

Game of the week

Kentucky vs. Connecticut, Wednesday.

Kentucky shut up its doubters with its first quality win in a 68-66 victory at Rupp Arena over North Carolina.

Now the Wildcats head to Madison Square Garden, where stellar freshman guard John Wall will try to hold his own against Connecticut guards Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker. The Huskies have something to prove after looking unimpressive in a loss to Duke.

sryan@tribune.com

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