MILWAUKEE -- You almost have to feel for the Gauchos. UC Santa Barbara clawed, fought, stripped, poked, prodded -- and, yes, hacked -- Evan Turner into one of the worst games the surefire national player of the year has had in all of 2009-10.
It didn't matter. Not one bit.
With Turner off, Ohio State sharpshooter Jon Diebler more than picked up his star teammate's slack -- scoring 23 points, hitting a barrage of 3-pointers and giving the Buckeyes an easy 68-51 win over the No. 15-seeded Gauchos Friday night.
"Evan was struggling a little bit," Diebler said. "He did a good job of finding the open guy."
By the time Turner came out of the game with less than four minutes left, he looked as frustrated as he has, well, maybe ever. UCSB had a very clear strategy for dealing with the Buckeyes' star -- harassment.
For the most part, it worked: The usually demure Turner was noticeably agitated throughout the second half, smiling incredulously at times, shaking his head at others. (Even after he was removed, Turner was sharing what appeared to be friendly conversations with the referees, even if the referees didn't seem quite so friendly in return.) Turner finished with a very un-Evan nine points on 2-of-14 shooting. (Though he did add 10 rebounds.)
"I thought there was a couple things that were happening that I was trying to get changed as well," OSU coach Thad Matta said, when asked about Turner's body language. "Evan's got to keep his composure and keep playing through it. He'll be all right."
Fortunately, the Buckeyes aren't a one-man team. Fortunately, Diebler -- along with fellow guard William Buford, who finished with 16 points -- weren't a focus of UCSB's campaign of irritation. OSU big man Dallas Lauderdale anchored the Buckeyes' middle, turning away eight Gauchos shots and grabbing 12 rebounds in the process.
Diebler's performance was especially impressive, given the guard has spent much of the past week suffering from the flu. Diebler didn't practice Tuesday and was sick at practice on Thursday; he ate for the first time in several days Friday. Feeling better, the sharpshooting guard played all 40 minutes Friday night.
"I was feeling pretty good," Diebler said. "Now I'm really tired, and really hungry. I can't wait to go back to the hotel and eat."