MORGANTOWN, W.Va - For the first 20 minutes of Ohio State's game at West Virginia it appeared that the Buckeyes could play against any team in the nation but 15-4 run to start the second half by the Mountaineers set the tone for a second half collapse as Ohio State (14-6, 4-3 Big Ten) fell 71-65 to West Virginia (15-3, 4-2 Big East) out of conference.
William Buford led the Buckeyes with 22 points and scored 11 of those in the first half while WVU did its best to deny Evan Turner who still managed to put up 18 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort. Turner however did miss four of seven free throws toward the end of the game that ultimately made a difference.
"It was frustrating because I thought they were going in," Turner said. "It is frustrating when you think they are going in and they go out. There is not much you can do except play. That is why you keep playing ball."
Da'Sean Butler led WVU with 21 points and hit the most important shot of the game at the 8:53 mark with the shot clock winding down to give WVU its first lead of the game at 57-54. It was a far cry of what had happened in the first half when the Mountaineers were stymied in shooting 10-26 from the field and only four of 14 from inside the arc.
"The biggest difference was that we ran offense the second half," West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said.
Ohio State led by as many as 14 points in the first half and took a 12 point lead to the locker room. Ohio State had seen the tape of WVU coming back from a 20 point deficit against Notre Dame and tried to keep the lead in perspective during halftime.
"We just wanted to keep our composure and try and come out the same way did in the first half with the same intensity," Buford said. "That didn't work out in the second half though."
The Buckeyes shot 40-percent in the second half but attempted 11 less shots than the Mountaineers and were outrebounded by a 20-12 margin in the second half. That plus a slow start really set an ominous tone in the first four minutes of the half.
"(They) were maybe as open... we get a wide open look to start the second half," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "(Jon Diebler) gets a three and (Dallas Lauderdale) gets a two foot shot and they don't go down. We come down and we turn it over again and I think they got two offensive rebound put backs in that segment to start the second half."
Turner was erased from the field in the second half going 0-5 from the field and only scored five points in the second half. What was the difference in WVU's approach in the second half?
"We put Devin on him and told him to guard him," Huggins said. "Devin is so long that he is hard to make shots over. We just wanted to keep (Turner) in front of us."
Usually Turner is able to make his own shot and the Buckeyes are used to Turner being able to take over a game in the second half when the chips are on the table.
"They can do all of the denying that they want but it is kind of hard to stop Evan from doing what he wants to do. He can get to the hole anytime he wants to," Buford said. "We really didn't make any adjustments but just needed to take good shots."
Turner played 40 minutes for the first time since returning from his back injury and the coaching staff noticed that the Ohio State star was a little winded at times.
"I thought he played well and he takes things hard but we have got to get him rest and get him ready to go again on Wednesday," Matta said.
Did Matta see anything in particular in Evan's stroke from the free throw line down the stretch?
"If I would have seen it I would have corrected it," Matta joked.
The West Virginia student section made sure that everyone including the television audience knew how they felt about Turner serenading him with a chorus of expletives. Is that something that Turner was aware of during the contest?
"No, I zone all of that stuff out I am a basketball player," Turner said. "I don't pay attention to anybody but my team."
The loss snapped Ohio State's three game winning streak but Turner believes that the team is just fine and will be ready to go against Iowa on Wednesday night in Iowa City (Iowa).
"I think we are on our way up, we are fine and at a good spot right now," Turner said. "Tonight should have been a win and they took care of business but we are fine."