RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — LaQuinton Ross scored 16 points before being ejected after a scuffle, leading No. 24 Ohio State to a 76-60 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night.
The fracas late in the game delayed play for several minutes while the officials deliberated penalties for the players. Northwestern’s Nikola Cerina also was ejected. The teams shot 10 free throws as a result of the shoving match.
The victory was Ohio State’s 33rd consecutive win over Northwestern in Columbus, dating to an 83-72 loss on Feb. 24, 1977, at old St. John Arena.
Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. each added 14 points for Ohio State. Sam Thompson, who had not hit double figures in his last eight games, had 11 for the Buckeyes (21-6, 8-6 Big Ten), who have won five of their last six.
Drew Crawford scored 22 points and Tre Demps 14 for the Wildcats (12-15, 5-9), who have lost four in a row.
The Buckeyes, up by four at the break, took control by starting the second half with a 9-0 run.
Craft hit two foul shots on the first possession — an action that would be repeated as the Wildcats were called for five fouls in the opening 2:10 of the half. Ohio State was in the double-bonus for the final 10:46.
They ended up making 23 of 29 free throws to Northwestern’s 9 of 14.
At the other end, Crawford’s baseline jumper was blocked by Thompson, who then poured in a 3 from the wing off an assist from Smith. Northwestern’s Chris Collins called a quick timeout with just 56 seconds elapsed, but that didn’t change the momentum.
Craft stole a pass that went through Crawford’s hands, then flipped a long pass to Shannon Scott who passed up a layup to throw the ball back to Smith for an emphatic dunk.
Moments later, Thompson flipped in a perimeter jumper for a 46-33 advantage.
Northwestern went scoreless for the final 50 seconds of the opening half and the first 3:43 of the second until JerShon Cobb hit a jumper.
Ohio State pulled away from there, with the lead never dipping below double figures.
After the skirmish under the Ohio State basket with 5:24 left, there was one more flare-up. With 2:51 remaining, Craft was dribbling on a breakaway when Northwestern’s Cobb shoved him from behind. The officials ruled it was an intentional foul, but did not eject Cobb.
It was a matchup that seemed to favor the Buckeyes. They came in allowing a Big Ten-low 63.1 points per game in conference play. The Wildcats were scoring a league-low 54.6 a game.
The first half was marked by two runs, one for each team.
The Wildcats went on a 13-1 spurt, with Crawford leading the way with five points on an 18-foot fadeaway under pressure and a long, high-arcing 3. That turned a 15-12 deficit into a 25-16 lead as the Buckeyes were scoreless for more than 4½ minutes.
But over the final 7 minutes of the half, Ohio State scored 21 of the 29 points to take a 37-33 lead. Ross was the main culprit, at one point scoring all the points in a 7-0 run.
Both Ross and Crawford had 13 points at the break. Ross made 4 of 6 shots from the field, 1 of 2 3-pointers and all four free throws, while Crawford tossed in 5 of 8 field goals and 3 of 5 attempts behind the arc.
This was the only meeting in the regular season between the teams.
Neither team is in the Big Ten title picture. The Buckeyes began the night in fifth place, three games back of co-leaders Michigan State and Michigan with four games left. Northwestern was ninth.
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