COLUMBUS, Ohio — It's the same old story for the hot-and-cold Northwestern Wildcats.
Ahead by nine points in the first half, they were outscored 30-8 over a 10-minute span and never recovered in falling 76-60 Wednesday night at No. 24 Ohio State in a game marred by a late skirmish.
"We were playing well offensively, but where the game was lost was what we lacked on defense," said Drew Crawford, who led the Wildcats (12-15, 5-9 Big Ten) with 22 points. "We were making shots but we weren't getting stops. And it has to be both."
The fracas late in the game delayed play for several minutes while the officials deliberated penalties for the players. Cerina also was ejected and will be suspended for the Wildcats' next game on Saturday at home against Indiana for taking a swing with a closed hand at Ohio State's Amir Williams.
The teams shot 10 free throws — a double foul, two technicals against Ross and one against Cerina — as a result of the shoving match.
"Things happen," Cerina said. "I don't really know. I have to look at the tape and see what actually happened."
Ross was not suspended, but was disqualified for picking up two dead-ball contact technical fouls.
Northwestern, which has had incredibly big wins at Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin but has wilted at other times, had played well until everything fell apart in the final 7 minutes of the first half and the first 3 minutes of the second.
Down 15-12 at the 11:34 mark, the Wildcats went on a 13-1 run. Crawford led the way with five points on an 18-foot fadeaway under pressure and a long, high-arcing 3.
But then it was Ohio State's turn. The Buckeyes scored 21 of the 29 points the rest of the half to take a 37-33 lead. Ross was the main culprit, at one point scoring all the points in a 7-0 run.
They then ran off the first nine points of the second half to build the lead to 46-33. The lead was never threatened again.
"Ohio State earned this game," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "We got off to a really good start. I was really pleased. We had good energy. We had a hot start shooting the ball — for us, we haven't been a team that has shot the ball that well and scored that well. It got into our defense a little bit. We thought we could just score."
Collins said things changed when the Buckeyes — the top defensive team in the Big Ten — started making stops.
"They turned up the heat defensively as the half wore down," he said. "Then we had a very poor start to the second half."
Tre Demps added 14 points for the Wildcats, who have not won in Columbus since an 83-72 victory on Feb. 24, 1977 — a string of 33 consecutive losses.
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, who have won five of their last six.
Kale Abrahamson, scoreless in 11 minutes, said the Ohio State run was too much to overcome.
"We kind of got lost on a few switches," he said. "A couple of people made shots that they don't normally make. Thompson was making 3s, something that's not really in our scouting report."
The shoving match took place at the 5:24 mark with the Buckeyes leading 66-50.
"I didn't see it," Collins said. "I saw a lot of bodies. Sometimes you see a lot of pushing and grabbing. I personally didn't see any punches, but that doesn't mean there weren't any thrown. I trust what the referees said. They got the fouls on us, the fouls on them — and then we played on."
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP