Ohio State already had one of the most impressive 20-minute stretches of its season behind it midway through the second half, and because of it the No. 24 Buckeyes’ 76-60 win over Northwestern was already in hand.

Then things got interesting.

With 5:24 remaining in the game, Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross and Northwestern big man Nikola Cerina became involved in a scuffle under the Buckeyes’ basket that led to the ejections of both players.

Cerina threw a swing with a closed fist at Amir Williams, and Ross reacted by shoving Cerina and Northwestern guard Drew Crawford. The referees reviewed the tape for about 10 minutes before returning to the floor with the ejection rulings.

“He won’t be suspended,” Matta said of Ross during his postgame news conference before hearing the official ruling. “I would be shocked if that’s the case.”

Matta was right.

Ross was ejected because he committed two separate dead ball technical fouls, and by rule there will be no further discipline, according to lead official Ray Perone. Cerina, however, will be suspended for Northwestern’s next game because he took a swing with a closed fist, which is considered fighting and punishable by suspension.

“To be honest, I don’t remember, I really don’t,” Cerina responded when asked if he took a punch. “Things happen. And that’s just the way it is. You’ve just got to move forward.”

After the game, Ross apologized to his team in the locker room for his actions.

“Personally, I didn’t see the whole scuffle or what happened, but obviously it wasn’t good if he got ejected from the game,” senior Lenzelle Smith Jr. said. “He apologized and he is ready to move on from it. Q is a great player, and sometimes those situations get the best of you and I think he fully understands what he did and what he should have done. Going forward, everything will be alright.”

Though Ross missed the final 5:42, he still led the Buckeyes with 16 points, and the junior forward has recently come on as the dominant scorer many anticipated he would be this year.

But even as he was getting hot, Matta said last week that he hasn’t arrived at the point where he doesn’t have to worry about Ross anymore. Matta was talking about the consistency of Ross’ play, but that also could extend to his maturity.

Ross injected himself into the skirmish – which at first involved only Williams and Cerina – and as a result could have put the Buckeyes in a tough spot moving forward.

“I felt him push me,” Crawford said of Ross. “It was just one of those things. I didn’t push him back so I didn’t get a technical, because I had four fouls and I would have been out of the game. The thing you want to do as a leader of the team is just try to get your team out of that situation and avoid anything bad happening.”

Ross is one of Ohio State’s leaders. He didn’t do the same.

Though Ross’ involvement in the conflict maybe wasn’t necessary, it was reactionary to stand up for his teammate. Matta understands that things sometimes happen in the heat of a basketball game.