It didn't look too good for Ohio State at the half of their game at #6 Purdue on Tuesday night. Robbie Hummel put on a shooting exhibition, knocking down eight three pointers on the way to 29 first half points as the Boilers went into the locker room up 41-29. But when you have one of the leading candidates for national Player of the Year you're never out of a game, especially if he's still recovering from a broken back. Ohio State outscored Purdue by sixteen in the second half in picking up a key Big Ten road win 70-66, with Evan Turner leading the way.
Turner scored 23 of his career-high 32 points in the second half, including fourteen of the Buckeyes' last eighteen points to bring the Scarlet and Gray home. But when watching a player like Turner it's important to also point out the other areas in which he makes an impact. Evan finished with nine rebounds while William Buford added 19 points and seven rebounds. Hummel scored six points in the second half while JaJuan Johnson's slow night (four points) was amplified by Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer combining to shoot 2-for-8 from the field, and the slowdown in production allowed the Buckeyes to fight their way back into the game.
But the star of the night was Turner, whose efforts have thrown the Big Ten race for a serious loop. Purdue's now lost two straight league games and Wisconsin will be without Jon Leuer (wrist) for the foreseeable future. Neither of these two will fall out of the race but this win has opened things up atop the Big Ten.
Three Key Happenings
1. For all the praise that John Wall receives, Eric Bledsoe's pretty doggone good in his own right. For a young team going on the road in league play for the first time can be a risky proposition, especially when playing in front of a group like the "Rowdy Reptiles" (it actually sounded like more Kentucky fans than usual made their way inside the O-Dome). But that concern was alleviated in the first half thanks to the play of Eric Bledsoe, whose fifteen points made up for the Kentucky bigs missing a plethora of close looks to give Kentucky a 38-31 halftime lead. Blesdoe finished with a game-high 25 points as the Wildcats withstood a second-half Gator rally to win 89-77.
The difference? Kentucky simply shot the ball better, a direct result of their superior ability to find quality looks. Florida was able to get back into the game thanks in large part to the diminutive Erving Walker (20 points) but they can point to their overall shot selection as a prime reason for their defeat. For the game Florida shot 38.2% from the field while the Wildcats finished at 51.4%. When you've got guys with the ability to get just about any shot they want you will be good. But when those guys have a grasp of what shots they want in the system they run you're that much tougher to beat. Florida found that out thanks to Bledsoe and company.
2. Don't expect to see Baylor in the Top 25 next week. The Bears rode into Boulder with a nine-game win streak and a fresh new ranking. They left as Colorado's first ranked victim since February of 2007 (Oklahoma State), falling 78-71 at the Coors Events Center. While Colorado is 9-0 at home this season this is a game that a team like Baylor cannot afford to lose in the battle for those spots behind Texas and Kansas in the Big 12 pecking order. Cory Higgins led five Buffaloes in double figures with eighteen points while LaceDarius Dunn's 23 led all scorers.
The issues for Baylor: Tweety Carter shot just 5-for-16 from the field and they were a staggering -13 (18-5) in turnover margin. You can manage a guy having an off night from the field but to have that kind of differential in turnovers will get you beat more times than not, especially on the road. That and Colorado's +10 margin in points from the foul line erased the Bears +13 rebounding margin, setting the stage for a big win for Jeff Bzdelik's program.
3. It's only fair to give Binghamton some praise after their win over Stony Brook. Given the turmoil that surrounded the program during the offseason more people wondered how the Bearcats would field a team than whether or not they'd win games. It was a given to the masses that interim head coach Mark Macon was in for a rough ride, but they're now 2-1 in America East play after handing previously undefeated Stony Brook a 64-62 loss at home. Greer Wright capped a career night (27 points) with a jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining to provide the final margin, answering a game-tying three from Bryan Dougher with nine seconds to go.
Now winners of three of their last four games, Binghamton could be a team that at the least gives the expected contenders fits as the season progresses. And even that would be an improvement over the "lucky to even be a speed bump" predictions that many had for Binghamton back in October.
Top Three Games
1. Ohio State 70, Purdue 66 See above.
2. Binghamton 64, Stony Brook 62 See above.
3. Wake Forest 85, Maryland 83 (OT) An Ishmael Smith runner with just under 20 seconds left in overtime gave the Demon Deacons the win in Winston Salem. While Greivis Vasquez led all scorers with 30 Al-Farouq Aminu led the winners with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Three Notable Performances
1. Evan Turner (Ohio State) Turner scored 32 points (23 in the second half) and grabbed nine rebounds in the Buckeyes' 70-66 comeback win at Purdue.
2. Robbie Hummel (Purdue) Hummel scorched the nets in the first half, knocking down eight three pointers and scoring 29 points. He finished with 35 and ten rebounds in the Boilermakers' loss to Ohio State.
3. Scott Wood (NC State) Wood scored a career-high 31 points (7-11 3PT) while also grabbing seven rebounds and helped spark a 16-1 first half run that gave the Wolfpack the lead for good.