COLUMBUS - It was hard to tell who was the happiest about the return of Evan Turner to the Ohio State starting lineup just a little bit more than a month since a freakish misstep on a dunk took Ohio State's best player down with two broken bones in his back. Even in limited action Turner's presence was enough to spark the Buckeyes (11-4, 1-2) and help snap a two game conference losing streak with a 79-54 rout of Indiana (7-7, 1-1) in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta couldn't hide a smile in the postgame interview when he was asked about the return of his star performer while guard Jon Diebler took full advantage of Turner's return to go off for a team high 21 points. And Turner himself took it all in stride and tried to act like his return was no big deal and that it was business as usual.
"I felt perfectly fine with no worries," Turner said. "It's pretty cool to finally be back, it feels like having a driver's license and a car at the same time. It's like having a lot of freedom."
Turner played for 20 minutes in the game and tallied eight points, four rebounds and five assists in limited action. Not bad for a guy that was supposed to be out for potentially another two to four weeks after a fluke injury against Eastern Michigan.
"I thought he was good," Matta said. "Last night in practice he was a little bit sloppy with the ball and you could tell that he hadn't done anything but I... was pretty pleased. His size out there just helps us on the defensive end and he appeared to be pretty comfortable and confident which was good."
Ohio State would open up a 31-8 lead early in the game and go on a 16-0 run to put this game out of hand quickly. Most of those points were scored without Turner on the floor but it was very obvious to all in attendance that the Buckeyes play as a different team with Turner being available.
"I think he did a great job of managing the game," Diebler said. "He wasn't forcing anything and just kind of easing his way back into the game."
Indiana struggled all night long and despite 22 points by Verdell Jones III and couldn't find much in the way of continuity going 30-percent from the floor in the first half and only slightly improving to 36-percent in the second half.
"We were not tough enough, we were not aggressive enough on either end of the court and we played like a team that was in its first road game and that is disappointing," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said.
And what did the Hoosier head coach think about the return of Turner for the Buckeyes?
"I am really focused on what my team is doing and our lack of defense and I will leave all of the evaluations and observations of that to everybody else," Crean said.
During the six games that Turner was out Diebler averaged just slightly more than ten points a game so blowing up for 21 points on Wednesday night was huge for Diebler personally and more importantly for the entire team effort going forward.
"We kind of play off of each other because Evan does such a great job of getting into the paint and drawing the defense and it leaves me for some easy shots and I just have to knock them down," Diebler said.
William Buford was the only other Buckeye to score in double figures with 16 points to go with six rebounds. P.J. Hill had nine points in relief of Turner at the point guard position.
Toward the end of Turner's time out on the court the Ohio State guard drew heavy contact with an Indiana player and went to the floor but immediately popped back up and to his feet. Matta admitted that he never wants to see one of his players draw contact but that it was good to see Turner respond so quickly to contact that would be inevitable. Turner did not shy away from contact in the game and even found himself drawing a couple of whistles on the night.
"I got in foul trouble quick but I know definitely they wanted to ease me back in," Turner said. "Thankfully we won big and everyone had a chance to play. Hopefully once the games get tougher I can go back to 40 (minutes)."
Matta summed up his feelings at the end of the night when he likened the return of Turner to an all-time classic movie reference and even though the Ohio State head coach didn't have the quote down 100-percent, everyone got what he was going at.
"One of my favorite all time lines from the Blues Brothers move is, 'It is good to put the band back together' tonight," Matta joked.