INDIANAPOLIS-- My first pregame Twitter post from Conseco Fieldhouse this morning went something like this.
“I hear this Evan Turner kid’s pretty good.”
Any other nominees for “Understatement of the Century” before I give myself the award?
In addition to his ho-hum 18 points and eight assists, Turner beat the buzzer—and broke the hearts of Michigan fans everywhere—with as dramatic a shot as you’ll ever see, giving top-seeded Ohio State a stunning 69-68 victory in the Big Ten quarterfinals.
Turner’s heroics, which took place closer to the halfcourt stripe than the three-point line, seemed to put the cherry on top of his Player of the Year campaign, a debate that has tilted away from John Wall and toward the OSU junior as the season has worn on.
“I don’t know what else a guy has to do to get Player of the Year in the country,” Ohio State guard Jon Diebler said with a smile on his face. “It was a great shot.”
Turner wasn’t ready to take all the credit, attributing his perfect aim to “a little bit of luck.”
“Honestly, I thought [the Michigan defenders] were probably going to crash or something like that,” said Turner. “The whole game they were swarming me. They gave me one good look.
“I guess being open, it felt a little bit free. I had a lot of time to shoot the ball. I felt like I was in the gym by myself.”
Turner admitted the long-distance shot (“not a heave; it was a shot!”) was his first buzzer-beater, and there’s no doubt that the image (and ensuing celebration) will stick with Buckeyes fans for years to come.
David Lighty, for one, has been around for a few dramatic moments in Ohio State lore.
“From Ron Lewis’s three [to defeat Xavier in the NCAA tournament] to Mike Conley’s floater that won the Big Ten championship [against Wisconsin], this is probably the craziest,” Lighty decided.
OSU coach Thad Matta was just glad the ball found the bottom of the net.
“As he let it go, I thought…that thing has got a chance to go in. It kept going, going, going, and boom…I’m not sure it was supposed to go in with how we had played…but fortunately, it did.”
Lost in the ruckus over the dramatic game-winner is how many other ways Turner impacted the game over the first 39 minutes and 59 seconds. While most of the well-deserved hype centers around his scoring ability, Turner impacted this game more with his passing than his shooting.
Between his 18 points and the game-high eight assists, Turner accounted for more than half of his team’s total on the scoreboard. He impacted the game at both ends of the floor, using his length to deflect passes, his strength to rip the basketball away from the other team, and, his smarts to know when to attack, when to pass, and of course, exactly how many dribbles he could get off in the final 2.2 seconds.
“I knew by my second dribble I had to get it up, and that was pretty much it,” Turner concluded.
Oh, that Player of the Year race you wondered about?
Well, that’s pretty much it, too.
For more Bleacher Report coverage from the Big Ten Tournament, follow Tim on Twitter at @TimCary.