Evan Turner might be the only player in the country for whom a double-double almost seems like an off night.
Three nights after putting up the second recorded triple-double in school history, the junior Ohio State guard had a game-high 24 points and 17 rebounds for his 13th career double-double as the No. 16/17 Buckeyes fended off an early upset charge from visiting James Madison, 72-44.
Turner received an ovation from most of the remaining crowd he was removed with 5:15 left in the game and OSU ahead 66-36. It was not a triple-double this time as he finished with 3 steals, 2 assists and 2 turnovers, but it was more than enough to help the Buckeyes improve to 2-0 on the season.
Afterward, however, he blamed himself for an offensive attack that struggled to get going in the first half.
“I think I did a poor job of leading he attack,” he said. “I think I sat back a little bit. I sat back a little bit and watched what he was doing as opposed to just going out and attacking like I usually do.”
The Dukes (0-1) hung with the Buckeyes for the first 15 minutes of the game but things took a decidedly OSU turn in the final moments of the first half. Holding a 20-18 lead with 5:29 left in the half, the Buckeyes closed it out with a 14-7 run that made it 34-25 at intermission.
They would not stop there. Although the Dukes got on the scoreboard on the first possession of the second half with a free-throw, OSU countered with back-to-back three-pointers from juniors Jon Diebler and David Lighty to push the lead to 40-26.
The baskets were part of a 10-3 run that made it 44-28 in favor of the Buckeyes, and from there the visitors could get no closer than 12 points.
“I thought the one thing I liked tonight was we did not tie our defense to our offense,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said. “Shots weren’t falling like they have and I thought guys continued to defend at a high level. We came out maybe a little bit flat and we weren’t communicating the way we needed to defensively. We made some shots early and then all of a sudden the lid was on the basket for us but I thought guys kept fighting.”
The Buckeyes came out of the gate firing and jumped out to a 10-2 lead, but a JMU timeout helped stem the tide. From there, cold shooting and dogged determination from the Dukes helped the visitors crawl back into the game.
JMU head coach Matt Brady said the first half goals were to keep their turnovers to less than eight, to limit the Buckeyes in transition and to keep them off the offensive glass. The Dukes committed nine turnovers and held OSU to six offensive rebounds but still trailed by nine.
“Obviously Ohio State’s a much better basketball team than we are,” he said. “They’re going to have a great season. I thought they were really sharp, (but) I thought for the first 20 minutes we kind of did what we wanted to do.”
A three-pointer from senior forward Matt Parker knotted the score at 16 with 8:37 remaining in the half, and it was a three-point game at 25-22 with 3:34 remaining. It closed a 14-6 run for the visitors during which the Buckeyes could not get into any sort of offensive rhythm.
On a stretch of eight possessions, OSU went 0 for 7 from the field and committed two turnovers. Meanwhile, JMU went on a 6-0 run to pull to within two points until junior forward David Lighty decided he had seen enough.
Taking the ball from the top of the circle, Lighty attacked the basket and laid the ball in, making the score 12-8 in favor of the home team with 11:48 remaining in the half and temporarily stemming the tide.
“The coaches told me that was one of the things we noticed in film before the game that they weren’t too good at defending one-on-one or off the ball,” Lighty said. “They just wanted me to attack so that’s what I did.”
From there, OSU closed on a 9-3 run. The final points came when Turner made the team’s first three-pointer of the night with less than six seconds remaining. To that point, OSU had missed all six of its attempts from deep.
The game marked a return to action for junior center Dallas Lauderdale, who missed the first game of the year with a broken finger on his right hand. He entered the game in relief of senior starter Kyle Madsen at the 12:54 mark of the first half and finished with four rebounds, two points, one block and one steal in 13 minutes of action.
“I felt good and right now I feel fine,” Lauderdale said after the game. “I got back in the flow of the game. I’m happy we got the win but I know we’ve got along way to go.”
The team’s indecisiveness in the first half was personified by one shot attempt by sophomore guard William Buford. Catching the ball near the top of the circle, the Toledo native leaped in the air but looked undecided if he wanted to shoot or pass. He chose neither, and the airball whistled out of bounds with 9:46 left in the half. He was credited with a shot attempt.
Lighty had the most acrobatic play of the game. With OSU leading 58-36 with about nine minutes remaining, he drove the basket from the left wing and was grabbed midair as he attempted an up-and-under move. With his back to the basket on the right side of the lane, he flipped the ball back over his body in the general direction of the basket only to see it bank off the glass and swish through the net.
That made it 60-36 in favor of the home squad with 8:34 left. Lighty finished with 14 points, while Buford added 12 despite having lost nearly seven pounds in the last week as he has battled the flu, Matta said. JMU was led by guard Pierre Curtis, who had 9 points and 8 rebounds.
The Buckeyes have not trailed in either of their contests this season.