COLUMBUS, Ohio — The No. 24 Ohio State Buckeyes were struggling early against Northwestern, but caught fire midway through the first half and never cooled off en route to a 76-60 victory over the Wildcats at Value City Arena on Wednesday night.
The Buckeyes (21-6, 8-6) won for the fifth time in their last six games after enduring a four-game losing streak in January. Northwestern (12-15, 5-9) lost its fourth consecutive game.
Tempers flared with 5:24 left in the game and Ohio State leading 66-50. Several players exchanged shoves before the officials intervened.
After a long delay to review replay monitors and determine fouls on the play, Northwestern forward Nikola Cerina and Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross were ejected. The fouls resulted in 10 free throws.
Ohio State center Amir Williams and guard Aaron Craft combined to make four foul shots. Northwestern guard JerShon Cobb made two of four free throws and forward Nathan Taphorn made one of two.
Trailing by nine points in the first half, the Buckeyes rebounded by scoring on 20 of 22 possessions during a long stretch spanning the halves and led by as many as 21 points twice in the second half.
Ross scored 16 points to lead Ohio State before he was disqualified. Guard Lenzelle Smith posted his second career double-double with 14 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds. Craft also had 14 points.
Northwestern forward Drew Crawford was hot early but was slowed by foul trouble in the second half and finished with 22 points, making 8 of 13 shots from the field and 4 of 7 3-pointers.
Crawford, the Wildcats’ leading scorer this season at 15.6 points-per-game, was coming off one of the worst games of his career, making 1 of 15 shots from the field and scoring two points in a loss at Minnesota on Sunday.
Northwestern led by as many as nine points in the first half after center Alex Olah scored inside with 7:19 left to make it 25-16.
Ohio State appeared to be in trouble at that point, but the Buckeyes charged back and went ahead 30-28 on a drive by Ross against Crawford. Northwestern reclaimed the lead briefly on a 3-pointer by guard Tre Demps before Ohio State finished the half with a 7-2 run to lead 37-33 at intermission.
The Buckeyes made eight of their last nine shots from the floor in the half and scored on nine straight possessions. They finished the opening 20 minutes shooting 52 percent from the floor (13 of 25). Northwestern also shot well, hitting 14 of 27 for 51.9 percent.
Crawford led the Wildcats in the first half with 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. Olah and Demps scored eight points each.
Ross had 13 points and five rebounds for the Buckeyes in the opening half.
NOTES: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was presented the Silver Football awarded by the Chicago Tribune to the Big Ten’s Most Valuable Player. Miller won the award for the second consecutive year. … Buckeyes senior G Aaron Craft was named one of 23 finalists for the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. … Northwestern fifth-year senior F Drew Crawford is the Big Ten’s active career scoring leader by a wide margin. He entered the game with 1,809 points, more than 350 ahead of Iowa G Roy Devyn Marble. … Three of Northwestern’s five Big Ten wins going into Wednesday night’s game were on the road. That followed a conference trend of road teams posting a .447 winning percentage in Big Ten games.
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