Ohio State takes care of Northwestern
Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - LaQuinton Ross had 16 points and six rebounds before being ejected late in the game, leading No. 24 Ohio State to a 76-60 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday.
Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 14 points apiece while the latter grabbed 10 rebounds for the Buckeyes (21-6, 8-6 Big Ten), who have won six of their last eight.
"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."
Drew Crawford scored a game-high 22 points and Tre Demps added 14 for Northwestern (12-15, 5-9), which has lost four straight.
The game opened up back-and-forth until a Sanjay Lumpkin layup sparked a 13-1 surge for Northwestern to give it a 25-16 advantage with 7:19 minutes left in the first half.
Ohio State, however, closed out the half with a 21-8 tear and carried a 37-33 lead into the break.
The Buckeyes stayed hot to open the second half and outscored the Wildcats 24-7 and took a 61-40 advantage halfway through the final frame.
The Wildcats never came within double digits following the Buckeyes' run.
"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."
Ross and Nikola Cerina were both ejected with 5:24 left to play for their participation in a scuffle between the teams.
Amir Williams and Cerina battled for position under the Northwestern basket. The rebound didn't come to them, but Williams and Cerina stayed locked up and that eventually ensued into a shoving match.
It looked as if Cerina threw a punch at Williams before the referees broke them apart and as the players arrived to defend their teammates, the skirmish appeared to be calming down. However, Ross pushed Cerina from behind before the scrum was finally quelled.
Northwestern hosts Indiana on Saturday ... The Buckeyes have won nine straight in the series and 26 of 27 since 1998-99 ... Ohio State hosts Minnesota on Saturday ... Ohio State shot 23-for-29 from the charity stripe , while the Wildcats went 9-for-14.