When Ohio State and Indiana met last month, Buckeyes superstar Evan Turner appeared somewhat hesitant playing his first game after a scary back injury sidelined him for 4 1/2 weeks.
There has been nothing tentative about his game over the past few weeks.Coming off another outstanding performance, Turner looks to lead the 13th-ranked Buckeyes to an eighth straight Big Ten victory Wednesday night as they visit the struggling Hoosiers.Ohio State (18-6, 8-3) was without Turner for more than a month after he fell while dunking in a game Dec. 5, breaking two bones in his lower back. He returned to the court Jan. 6 against Indiana and showed some rust, finishing with eight points, five assists and four rebounds in 20 minutes in the Buckeyes' 79-54 victory.Although Turner was clearly not at full strength in that win over the Hoosiers -- Ohio State's third straight victory in the series -- he quickly regained his dominance.Two games after the win over Indiana, Turner had a career-high 32 points in a 70-66 win at then-No. 6 Purdue on Jan. 12. He matched that scoring total in Sunday's 68-58 win over Iowa, while also having seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.Turner is averaging 26.0 points on 58.8 percent shooting with 6.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his last three games, and Ohio State coach Thad Matta doesn't believe there is anyone playing better."If there's one out there better than him, then I look forward to seeing him," Matta said. "Because he's playing really well right now."The Buckeyes went 3-3 without Turner but have won eight of 10 since -- including the last seven against conference opponents -- and are right in the thick of the wide-open race for first place in the Big Ten."I'm going to state the obvious here but when he was out, they were a good team, a very good team," Hawkeyes coach Todd Lickliter said of Turner's absence. "But when he came back, they were elevated to one of the best in the nation."Indiana (9-13, 3-7) is in the midst of its second straight rebuilding season under coach Tom Crean.The Hoosiers dropped their fourth in a row Sunday with a 78-61 loss at Northwestern, and snapping this skid isn't going to be easy.After this game, Indiana visits No. 11 Wisconsin on Saturday followed by a home game against 10th-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday. The Hoosiers have played two games against ranked teams this season and have dropped 11 straight to Top 25 opponents since a 77-68 win over then-No. 14 Purdue on Feb. 19, 2008.A sputtering offense is one of the big reasons the Hoosiers have had so much trouble. They shot 35.3 percent Sunday and are averaging 62.3 points on 38.0 percent shooting during their skid. Against Ohio State last month, Indiana shot 34.0 percent and was 4 of 18 from 3-point range.Verdell Jones III is one of the few bright spots for Crean's team. He had a career-high 28 points against Northwestern and has scored at least 22 in each of his last three games. The sophomore guard also had 22 points at Ohio State in January."He's continuing to get better and we have to find ways to get him the ball," Crean said.