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Published: Friday, 3/12/2010

OSU-UM rivalry heats up Big Ten

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

INDIANAPOLIS - Michigan coach John Beilein has seen his team face Ohio State without Big Ten player of the year Evan Turner and defeat the Buckeyes, and then watched them encounter an Ohio State with Turner in the lineup that beat the Wolverines.

At high noon here today in the second round of the Big Ten tournament, Beilein gets to see the Buckeyes again, and it is the version that includes Turner, who led the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding this season from his point guard position.

Turner hit the deck hard after a dunk against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 5, and missed more than a month of the season with two fractures in his lower back. A healthy Turner now leads No. 5 ranked Ohio State, the top seed in the Big Ten tournament after winning a share of the conference title.

Beilein said the Buckeyes survived the time without Turner, and then a much-improved supporting cast surrounded him on his return and that combination led Ohio State to a Big Ten title.

"Ohio State was in a bit of a transition back then," Beilein said about the first meeting between the two rivals.

"They looked like they were finding out who they were without such a fabulous player. The second time we played them, I thought they had all gotten better without him, and then adding him, it's just an X factor."

Turner had 16 points and 12 rebounds when the Buckeyes dispatched Illinois in the regular season finale and clinched a share of the conference crown.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta, whose team has been idle for 10 days since that game, said he was not overly concerned about the long layoff.

"The truth will be told when we play again, as to where we are," Matta said. "These guys have a pretty good maturity about them and an understanding of what we have to get done every day. They have done a great job of staying the course and maintaining their focus."

Matta said the level of competition in the Big Ten tournament offers his team the opportunity to be tested in advance of the upcoming NCAA tournament.

"Going into the Big Ten conference tournament," Matta said, "if you're playing good basketball, it will be equivalent to the NCAA tournament in terms of the caliber of teams you're going to play."

Michigan (15-16), after beating Iowa 59-52 in yesterday's first round of the tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse, seemed convinced an aggressive approach would be required against the Buckeyes.

"That's a talented team, so we've got to come out and not be scared, come out and attack them," Michigan senior DeShawn Sims said.

The Wolverines, an NCAA tournament team a year ago, are aware that the only route back to that prestigious event requires that they beat the Buckeyes, and win the Big Ten tournament.

"You're three wins away from a magical experience," Beilein said about that possibility, "but it's got to go through Ohio State."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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