By NANCY ARMOUR
The Associated Press
MILWAUKEE (AP) – One bad game for Evan Turner is a rarity. No way he has two in a row.
Turner shook off one of the worst shooting nights of his career by coming within an assist and a rebound of his third triple-double of the season, and second-seeded Ohio State outlasted foul- and turnover-plagued Georgia Tech for a 75-66 victory Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Turner, a leading contender for national player of the year, finished with a game-high 24 points. Jon Diebler added 20 points for the Buckeyes (29-7) and David Lighty had 18.
Ohio State will face sixth-seeded Tennessee on Friday night in St. Louis in a Midwest Regional semifinal.
ACC Freshman of the Year Derrick Favors, who played just 5 minutes in the first half after picking up two quick fouls, keyed an 11-0 run that cut Ohio State’s lead to 65-61 with 1:47 to play. Turner made two free throws, and Lighty converted both of his after an intentional foul and the Yellow Jackets (23-13) never threatened again.
Favors, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds, fouled out in the last minute. Gani Lawal, who had three fouls before halftime, had 11 points.
Beating the Buckeyes might have been a tall order anyway, but Georgia Tech (23-13) had no chance with Lawal and Favors, their two leading scorers and rebounders, in foul trouble for much of the game. Turnovers didn’t help, either, with Ohio State converting 21 Georgia Tech miscues into 13 points.
Ohio State may have been the biggest beneficiary of top-seeded Kansas’ shocking loss to Northern Iowa on Saturday, taking over as the favorite in the Midwest.
And don’t think the Buckeyes aren’t aware of it.
Knowing Georgia Tech had no margin for an errant hand or hard check – let alone the extra man needed to contain the slippery Turner – with four players in foul trouble, Ohio State simply took it to the Yellow Jackets. Lighty and Diebler lit it up from outside, William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale pounded it inside and Turner, well, he just hit from wherever he wanted.
A 3-pointer by Lighty sparked a 14-2 run that gave the Buckeyes a 46-32 lead with 12:47 left. A layup by Favors got the Yellow Jackets within 52-43 with 9:15 to play, but Buford followed his own shot and tapped home the rebound, and the Buckeyes were off and running again.
The Yellow Jackets did make that one last run, but it was too little, too late.
Turner and the Buckeyes got off to a slow start, missing seven of their first nine shots. Georgia Tech seemed to take a cue from UC Santa Barbara, which bumped and hounded Turner into nine points on just 2-of-13 shooting Friday night. Two Yellow Jackets were glued to Turner every time he brought the ball up the court, with top defender Iman Shumpert – Turner’s backcourtmate in junior high – all over him.
But there’s a reason Turner is up for player of the year. One poor game is a rarity, he wasn’t about to have two in a row.
After two dunks and two free throws by Lawal gave Georgia Tech a 14-6 lead with 12:01 to play, Turner simply took over. He drained a 3, scored on a layup and then converted a three-point play after picking off a pass intended for childhood buddy Shumpert to put Ohio State ahead 19-16, its first lead of the game.
Georgia Tech went back in front with a 3-pointer by Brian Oliver and a layup by Lawal, but Turner answered with a driving layup, Lighty made a 3 and Turner tipped in his own miss. Sheehan tied the game on a three-point play, but Lighty scored on a thunderous dunk off a pass from – who else? – Turner.