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December 10, 2009
Around the Rim
Turner Sidelined

by John Perrotto

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The Pomeroy statistics for individual players won’t be available until later this month when there is a large enough sample size of games for the numbers to matters. That is too bad because it would be interesting to see what Evan Turner’s advanced metrics look like for 2009-10.

The Ohio State junior point guard has been scoring been scoring highly in the verbal ratings. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta called Turner the best player in college basketball this season as he is averaging 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 31.5 minutes a game for a team that is 7-1 going into its game Saturday afternoon at Butler.

However, Turner will likely be out until at least late January after suffering a transverse process fracture on the second and third lumbar vertebra of his spine. The injury occurred last Saturday while attempting a dunk in a 111-60 victory over Eastern Michigan.

“My primary concern right now is Evan’s long-term health and well-being,” Matta said. “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 the Butler.”

Ohio State does have four other players scoring in double figures, led by junior forward Jon Diebler (17.1/2.9/2.6/32.6) and including junior forward David Lighty (11.9/5.3/3.0/31.6), sophomore forward William Buford (11.1/3.0/3.3/25.1) and senior guard Jeremie Simmons (10.8/0.8/0.6/15.8). However, none can match Turner’s overall game.

Senior guard P.J. Hill will move into the lineup with Turner out. His line is 5.0/1.4/1.6/15.4.

“I hate to see him to get hurt but also I know that he would want me to go out there to take full advantage of the opportunity and run for his spot,” Hill said.

Clearly, Hill is not Turner. In fact, to hear Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton tell it, there are few like Turner in the college game today. Turner played all 40 minutes and had 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 77-64 victory over the Seminoles on Dec. 2.

“He finds a way to make up for what other people are not doing,” Hamilton said. “He’s a throwback. He reminds me a lot of Oscar Robertson, a big guard who takes you inside and gets on top of you. He’s never in a hurry and executes at his pace. You feel like you’re defending him but he does so many things that makes a difference in a game, things that don’t show up in the statistical columns. He makes the extra pass, gets rebounds, keeps the ball alive, penetrates and finds people.

“He’s a tremendous player. He’s as good as I’ve played against in a number of years. Not only is he talented but he has a court sense that kind of separates him from just the good players. He’s a guy that makes a difference, who doesn’t create shots just for himself but for his teammates as well. He’s like a coach on the floor. He’s a smart-headed guy. As long as he is on the floor, they are always going to have a chance to win.”

However, if the doctors are correct, Turner likely won’t be on the floor until at least Jan. 6 when Ohio State hosts Indiana in its third Big Ten game of the season. The Buckeyes begin conference play with two road games, Dec. 31 at Wisconsin and Jan. 3 at Michigan, following a non-conference slate that softens considerably after Butler with home games against Presbyterian, Delaware State and Cleveland State.

Matta found encouragement that life can go on without Turner in Buford doubling his career high with 10 assists against Eastern Michigan despite being more of a shooting guard.

“William has been passing the ball well the last few games,” Matta said. “He’s been sharper. He’s been crisper. We’ve asked him to be more of a complete player and he’s making strides in that regard.”

“We know when a man goes down we have to pick it up and especially for a guy like Evan who does so much for us on the floor,” Diebler said.

Syracuse Hot from Downtown

One reason while Syracuse takes an 8-0 record into its game with Florida tonight in Tampa is that it is shooting an outstanding 42.3 percent on three-point field goal attempts. That ranks first among Big East teams and 17th in the nation.

Six different Orange players are averaging at least 2.0 attempts a game from beyond the arc. Junior forward Wesley Johnson is Syracuse’s top three-point shooter at 53.1 percent while senior forward Andy Rautins is shooting 51.1 percent and freshman forward Mookie Jones is at 46.7 percentage.

“The threes have really been working for us,” Jones told the Syracuse Post-Standard. “Everybody’s been working on it and everyone’s really been hitting. That’s great for us.”

Rautins believes the key to Syracuse’s long-range shooting success is ball movement.

“We’re getting really good looks,” he said. “We’re going high post, low post and kicking out.”

Memphis Still Rolling

This was the season Memphis’ reign in Conference USA was supposed to end. Coach John Calipari left for Kentucky, 31-year-old assistant coach Josh Pastner took over and inherited a team that lost its top four scorers.

Yet the Tigers are 6-1 going into their game Saturday night at Arkansas-Little Rock, albeit against a soft schedule with victories over Jackson State, Tennessee Tech, Central Arkansas, Oakland, Arkansas State and Montana State, though they did lost by only two points to top-ranked Kansas on a neutral floor. A major reason why Memphis looks poised to win its fifth straight conference title is the play of sophomore guard Elliot Williams, who has a 20.7/4.3/3.3/32.6 line in his first season after transferring from Duke.

Williams, who was granted a waiver because of a family illness that allowed him to become eligible this season instead of having to sit out the customary one year as a transfer per NCAA rules, is the only Memphis player scoring in double figures. However, the rest of the Tigers don’t mind.

“There are a lot of other scorers on the team and people who can step up and put up numbers like that,” senior guard Doneal Mack told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “We’re fine with Elliot scoring like that and he’s going to find us.”

Opposing defenses are trying to force Williams to pass as they are paying more attention to him. That is quite different than his freshman season at Duke when he averaged 4.2/2.3/0.7/16.6 and was seventh on the team in scoring.

“I’ve noticed teams forcing me a certain direction, closing in, make me kick out,” Williams said. “But my teammates are doing well. They’re making shots and the big guys are finishing plays.”

Charlotte Stuns Louisville

One of the more shocking scores of the early part of this season came last Saturday when visiting Charlotte whipped Louisville 87-65. The victory ran the 49ers record to 7-1 in a season that was considered pivotal in coach Bobby Lutz keeping his job.

“Anything is possible now,” senior point guard DiJuan Harris said.

The 22-point margin of victory was the largest by a Lutz-coached Charlotte team against a Top 25 opponent. It was also the largest margin of defeat by Louisville in Rick Pitino’s nine years as coach.

Perhaps the most amazing part of the victory was that Charlotte laid an egg in its only other game against a ranked team this season, getting thumped 101-59 at Duke on Nov. 17.

“Going to Duke, our guys said the right things but if you polygraphed them, I don't think they would have all passed the test,” Lutz said. “Tonight, we believed we would win the game. That doesn't mean we would win but I think we grew up.”

Charlotte hosts Gardner-Webb on Saturday night.

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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