Ohio State made quick work against Alcorn State on a record-breaking night from Evan Turner.
The junior guard from Illinois notched the second recorded triple-double in program history and the first in nearly 23 years, finishing with 17 rebounds, 14 points and 10 assists as the Buckeyes (1-0) defeated the Braves (0-1) by a final score of 100-60.
“It’s cool,” Turner said. “It’s real cool to get a triple-double and be in the same company as a great player like Dennis Hopson. I’m really fortunate we won the game tonight. We had a good team win and I thought we made a statement tonight.”
He very nearly didn’t get there, however.
Needing just two assists in the second half to record the second triple-double in program history, Turner’s teammates suddenly went cold after receiving the ball from him. He picked up assist No. 9 when senior guard Jeremie Simmons scored with 9:16 remaining, but he appeared stuck there as the half drew closer to a close.
Perhaps not wanting to be accomplices to history, the Braves began pressuring the ball full-court while sophomore forward Corey Anthony hounded Turner’s every move.
Sophomore forward Nikola Kecman caught a pass from Turner in the paint but was fouled as he tried to get the shot off. Two possessions later, he missed a three-point attempt after getting the ball from Turner. Two possessions after that, sophomore guard Walter Offutt misfired in the same situation.
Finally, it came down to junior guard Jon Diebler, who moved into fourth place in OSU history for three-pointers (150) after connecting on six against the Braves. Even he took two tries, however, finally connecting from the right wing with 7:02 left.
“That last one I shot just because I knew,” Diebler said. “One of the assistants told me. I’m excited for him because I know how hard he works, coming in at night by himself and shooting. He’s worked extremely hard. The strides that he’s made, it’s the first game but I’m excited for him. He deserves it.”
Diebler was the only player to admit to knowing what was going on. Head coach Thad Matta said he saw the halftime stat sheet and knew he was close, but said he did not feel the pursuit of the record affected his team’s play. Either way, Turner saw a team-high 30 minutes of action during a game where his team’s lead stretched as high as 50 points.
With his performance, Turner found himself on par with OSU’s all-time leading scorer in Dennis Hopson, who put up 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists Dec. 6, 1988 in a 96-75 victory against Ohio University in St. John Arena. It was the first triple-double of his career, Turner said.
He nearly got there in the first 20 minutes against the Braves. With the shot clock turned off, Turner dribbled the ball near the top of the circle and forced the two guards in Alcorn State’s zone defense to pinch in. He then fired a pass to the wing, where sophomore guard William Buford was waiting.
His shot attempt swished through the net as time expired, and he held his pose for an extra second or two, smiling as the crowd roared. With the basket, Turner sat at 12 points, 12 boards and eight assists.
“He’s a good player,” Alcorn State head coach Larry Smith said of Turner. “Any time you get triple-doubles you’re doing your work out there. On the flip side, we just couldn’t get stops.”
It also gave the Buckeyes a 56-28 lead at the break against a completely overmatched Braves squad that featured eight freshmen and no returning scorers of 10 or more points.
Not surprisingly, it was Turner who got things started early. After Alcorn State won the tip, Turner stole the ball from freshman forward Jamar Ragland, pushed it up the court himself and dunked the basketball. Seventeen seconds into the game, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago already had his first basket.
The Buckeyes burst out of the gate with the first eight points of the game on baskets by Turner, Buford, David Lighty and Diebler. From there, OSU increased its scoring margin to plus-15 when a Turner layup with 12:44 left in the half made it 20-5 in favor of the home team.
The Braves' only sustained threat came when they outscored the Buckeyes by a 10-5 margin, cutting it to 25-15 with 9:16 remaining in the half on a layup by Gifford Blakeley. Sophomore guard Walter Offutt converted two free throws on the ensuing possession to push it back to a 12-point lead and in the process began what would become a 16-0 run by the Buckeyes.
Alcorn State’s next basket came on a jumper by Tony Eackles with 5:40 remaining in the half and made the score 41-17 in favor of the Buckeyes.
The visitors would get no closer than 22 points for the remainder of the evening.
Once Turner’s triple-double was announced, the announced crowd of 11,015 was only left to wonder if the Buckeyes would reach triple digits on the night. They did when sophomore center Zisis Sarikopoulos, making his OSU debut after sitting out last season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, put in a missed shot by walk-on guard Danny Peters with exactly 2:00 remaining to give the Buckeyes 100 points.
It was the first basket of his OSU career.
Diebler led the way with 22 points, while Buford had 19, Simmons added 12 and Offutt had a career-high 11 off the bench.