Cliff Brunt (AP), Published March 15 2010
Gophers’ Big Ten run ends, still make NCAA tourney
When it appeared there was nothing more he could do to make his Big Ten tournament performance better, the junior had 31 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 5 Ohio State over Minnesota 90-61 in the championship game.
Turner hit a 37-foot shot at the buzzer to beat Michigan in the quarterfinals, then scored 12 of his 31 points after regulation in a double-overtime win against Illinois in the semifinals. He topped it by setting the tournament record for points in a championship game and was the obvious choice as the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Ohio State (27-7) made nine 3-pointers in the second half to pull away after leading by just three points at halftime. David Lighty scored 20 points and Jon Diebler added 19 for the Buckeyes, who tied the record for largest victory margin in a Big Ten tournament game.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta said Turner’s weekend was as good as he has seen.
The point guard averaged 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists in three games.
Matta told Turner to take over the game, and he responded with 22 points in the second half.
“When you look at the body of work over the weekend, I mean, this has to go down as probably – I know I’ve been in this league for six years,” Matta said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Ohio State received a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Regional. The Buckeyes will play Cal-Santa Barbara in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday in Milwaukee. Ohio State was a team many experts thought could draw a No. 1 seed, but the Buckeyes didn’t mind where they ended up.
“It’s a good draw,” Turner said. “We’re close to home in Milwaukee. We’ve just got to go out there and take care of business, try and handle what we can control.”
Lawrence Westbrook scored 17 points and Devoe Joseph added 14 for the Golden Gophers (21-13), who had beaten Purdue by 27 on Saturday.
Minnesota received an at-large bid, and the 11th-seeded Golden Gophers will play No. 6 seed Xavier in the West Regional on Friday in Milwaukee. The team gathered in a room at Conseco Fieldhouse, unsure if it would get a bid. The Golden Gophers might have persuaded the selection committee by beating No. 11 Michigan State and No. 6 Purdue to reach the final.
“We came here and impressed a lot of people, I guess, and we made our way in the tournament,” Westbrook said. “It’s a great feeling. We broke a couch in there because we were all jumping around and celebrating.”
They weren’t celebrating a Big Ten title because Turner did a little bit of everything. He made four 3-pointers and several acrobatic layups, and had six assists. After one layup, during which he was fouled, Ohio State fans started chanting M-V-P.
Minnesota had won four straight games and seven of nine, but struggled defensively for the first time in the tournament. The Golden Gophers held their first three opponents to combined 36 percent shooting in the tournament, and had locked down Purdue in a 69-42 victory on Saturday.
Ohio State shot 58 percent on Sunday, but things started slowly.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Turner and Diebler gave the Buckeyes a 24-18 lead and forced Minnesota to call time out.
A steal and two-handed jam by Diebler gave the Buckeyes a 28-21 lead, but Minnesota came back with a 3-pointer by Joseph at the halftime buzzer to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 33-30. Both teams shot poorly for most of the first half, but warmed up toward the end.
The Buckeyes opened the second half with an 8-0 run. Three-pointers by Turner and William Buford helped Ohio State take a 41-30 lead.
Minnesota responded with a 7-0 spurt, highlighted by a 3-pointer by Joseph, to trim Ohio State’s lead to 41-37 just over 4 minutes into the second half.
Turner hit another 3-pointer, then Lighty made consecutive layups to push the Buckeyes’ lead back to 11 points midway through the second half, and the rout was on. The Buckeyes outscored Minnesota 57-31 in the second half.
“When our minds are right, our game is right, and I think we came out with the right mentality to go out and get the job done,” Lighty said. “You know, they kept fighting, but we withheld and kept fighting, as well, then things started falling for us when we picked up the defense.”