The only scare No. 15 Ohio State received while facing Eastern Michigan came from within its own locker room.
Junior point guard and three-time Big Ten player of the week honoree Evan Turner exited the game at the 13:27 mark of the first half after suffering a back injury. He did not return, but it did not prevent the Buckeyes (7-1) from securing a 111-60 victory against the visiting Eagles (5-3).
Turner, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, was transported to OSU Medical Center, where X-rays on his lower back were negative. He was set to be released later in the afternoon after undergoing a precautionary CT scan, head coach Thad Matta said.
“At this point I’m pretty optimistic that he’s going to be OK,” the coach said. “I haven’t seen the fall yet, but obviously (I’m) thinking about him and hoping everything is going to be OK.”
The crowd of 12,135 at Value City Arena went sickeningly silent immediately after Turner’s back made contact with the floor. After grabbing a defensive rebound, the junior pushed the ball up the court and looked to go coast-to-coast, but he was fouled as he attempted a two-handed dunk.
Failing to grab control of the rim, his hands slipped off and Turner fell hard flat on his back underneath the basket. He writhed in pain for a few minutes as the crowd stood and stared before he was eventually helped to his feet by the team’s medical staff.
With trainer Vince O’Brien primarily assisting him, Turner gingerly made his way toward the team’s locker room while walking awkwardly. He was replaced in the lineup by senior P.J. Hill, and senior center Kyle Madsen hit one of two free throws in his place.
Turner walked out of the arena under his own power and was accompanied by his family.
“He let go of the rim too fast,” Hill said. “When he grabbed the rim, he was swinging and he let go and his legs kept swinging and his momentum carried him.
“I hate to see him get hurt but also I know that he would want me to go out there and take full advantage of the opportunity, just pick up where he left off so that’s what I did.”
On the court, Turner’s absence was hardly noticed. After holding a 16-5 lead following Madsen’s free throw, the Buckeyes went into the half with a 62-25 lead thanks in part to 13 first-half points from Hill. He put an exclamation point on the half when he drove the basket and drew a hard foul with 5.1 seconds remaining and converted the free throw to set the score at the break.
He would finish with a career-high 18 points. He was one of five Buckeyes to score in double figures, led by junior guard Jon Diebler’s 21 points aided by 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
Simmons, who was moved from point guard following last season and will prepare to switch back should Turner be limited going forward, finished with 17 points. He has now scored in double figures in four consecutive games, the best such streak in his career. In addition, guard William Buford and forward David Lighty each had 16 points.
In addition, Buford contributed 10 assists to double his previous career high.
“Honestly, if you go back and look William has been passing the ball very well the past few games,” head coach Thad Matta said. “He’s been sharper, he’s been crisper. We’ve asked him to be more of a complete player and today was evident that he’s making strides in that regard.”
The Buckeyes eclipsed the 100-point mark for the third time this second and second time in three games when senior guard Jeremie Simmons hit a three-pointer from the left corner, making it 102-51 at the 5:06 mark.
The Eagles never led in this one. The Buckeyes scored the first five points of the game, and opened on a 12-2 run. It was a 20-9 OSU lead with 11:31 remaining in the first half before the Buckeyes went on a 12-2 run to push the score to 32-11 with 8:18 remaining, and from there it was only a matter of how high the lead would climb.
In three games against ranked opponents this season, Hill had averaged 7.3 minutes of action – a total that included not playing at all in the team’s 77-64 victory against then-No. 21 Florida State three days prior.
The 111 points marked a season high for the Buckeyes.
“We had no answers,” EMU head coach Charles Ramsey said. “It was a humbling experience.”