How bad was the Buckeyes star player’s awkward, back-first, 7-foot drop onto the hardwood? It was bad enough to make a crowd of 12,135 hold its collective breath.
“It got pretty quiet in the gym,” said Jon Diebler, who led the Buckeyes with 21 points. “It got really quiet.”
Hours later, Ohio State fans found out that it was as bad as it looked. Turner sustained broken bones in his back that will sideline him for the next eight weeks.
Initial tests at The Ohio State University Medical Center did not show any broken bones or substantial damage. But subsequent tests determined that Turner had a transverse process fracture on the second and third lumbar vertebra of his spine, athletic trainer Vince O’Brien said.
Turner, one of the nation’s top all-around players who came in averaging 20.6 points and 12.9 rebounds, was fouled on a dunk attempt, held onto the rim too long and landed on his back out of bounds with the Buckeyes (7-1) leading 15-5 and 13:27 left in the first half.
After lying on the floor for a couple of minutes while being tended to by medical personnel, Turner was helped up and gingerly walked to the locker room. He was taken to Ohio State Medical Center where X-rays were negative.
After the game, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said he was optimistic about Turner’s situation. But that was obviously before all the tests were completed.
“My primary concern right now is Evan’s long-term health and well-being,” Matta said in a statement released by the university hours after the game ended. “Evan was to this point in the season the best player in college basketball. We have been through tough situations before and our guys will regroup and prepare for the rest of our season starting with Butler next week in Indianapolis.”
A year ago, at almost exactly the same point in the season, Buckeyes captain and the team’s most experienced player, David Lighty, broke a bone in his foot and missed the rest of the year.
After Turner departed the game against Eastern Michigan, the rest of the Buckeyes picked up the slack for the player who leads them in points, rebounds and assists.
The Buckeyes scored at least 110 points for the second time in eight days, and the total against Eastern Michigan matched the ninth-most in program history.
P.J. Hill had a career-high 18 points, Jeremie Simmons 17 and William Buford and David Lighty each had 16 for the Buckeyes, who won their fifth in a row since a 76-73 loss to then-No. 6 North Carolina in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic on Nov. 19.
“He would have wanted me to take full advantage of the opportunity,” said Hill, who has seen his playing time diminish in recent games. “Just pick it up where he left off.”
Buford had a career-high 10 assists. He came in shooting just 34 percent from the field, including an ugly 1-for-12 showing in Wednesday’s 77-64 win over No. 21 Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. But he made five of 11 shots from the field, including half of his six 3-point attempts.
“Evan is the one who usually distributes the ball and gets all the assists,” Buford said after his first collegiate double-double. “Since he was gone, I got a lot of open looks from the rest of my teammates and I just tried to keep passing them the ball.”
Brandon Bowdry scored 24 points and Carlos Medlock 13 for Eastern Michigan (5-3), which had a three-game winning streak snapped.
“They came out and played a lot of man to man,” Eagles coach Charles E. Ramsey said. “They did a tremendous job with all the ball-screen action. They attacked it. We didn’t handle it well, we weren’t ball tough. Things started going downhill and everything went downhill.”
The Buckeyes made 16 of 29 3-pointers (55 percent) and shot 63 percent from the field.
Diebler had 15 points and Hill matched his career high with 13 in the first half. In addition, Buford surpassed his career best in assists with six in the first 20 minutes.
Ohio State scored 12 of the first 14 points and never trailed, leading 62-25 at the break.
At halftime, a ceremony honoring Ohio State’s football team winning its fifth straight Big Ten football title turned into a sing-along. After the three captains spoke to the crowd – each guaranteeing a win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl – and AD Gene Smith presented the Big Ten championship trophy, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Jim Tressel. The coach turned 57.