Junior forward LaQuinton Ross scored 16 points before being ejected late in the second half as No. 24 Ohio State defeated Northwestern, 76-60, at Value City Arena in Columbus, Wednesday night.
Senior guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. both added 14 points as Smith Jr. added 10 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who have won six of their last eight.
Ohio State trailed by as many as nine in the first half following a short jumper in the paint by Northwestern’s Alex Olah that put the Wildcats up 25-16 with 7:19 to go until intermission.
But the Buckeyes went on a 14-3 run from that point to get back in the game and outscored Northwestern 21-8 in the final seven-plus minutes of the first stanza to take a 37-33 lead into the locker room.
To start the second period, Ohio State scored the half’s first 11 points and never looked back leading by double-digits the rest of the way.
“We had a very poor start to the second half,” said Northwestern coach Chris Collins. “[Ohio State] made shots early, got out in transition a little bit and we had a number of fouls that put us in a tough spot. I sensed they turned up their defense a notch. I felt an extra burst of energy and aggressiveness.”
The story of the game, though, happened with a little over five minutes left when Ross and Nikola Cerina were both ejected for their participation in a scuffle between the two teams.
Junior forward Amir Williams and Cerina were battling for position under the Northwestern basket and the two became locked up as Cerina was shoving Williams out-of-bounds before Williams shoved back. Then Cerina threw a punch at Williams before the referees broke them apart as more players arrived to defend their teammates, including Ross, who pushed Cerina from behind.
Drew Crawford scored a game-high 22 points and Tre Demps added 14 for Northwestern (12-15, 5-9), which has lost four straight.
“I like the direction we are heading,” said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. “This is historically where we have tried to play our best basketball. With the landscape of college basketball, who knows what is going to happen when you take the floor. That is why we have done everything we can to keep our focus on us, in terms of us getting better.”
Up next, Ohio State hosts Minnesota on Saturday. Tip-off at Value City Arena is scheduled for 6:00 pm. ET, and the game will be televised on BTN.