COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nikola Cerina has played in the shadows all season, getting minutes here and there as Alex Olah's backup.
But Cerina was front and center Wednesday night during Ohio State's 76-60 victory.
With less than six minutes to play, Cerina and Ohio State center Amir Williams were rough-housing under the basket. After the whistle, Cerina took a quick swing that did not connect.
- PHOTOS: Photos: Ohio State 76, Northwestern 60
- VIDEO: Video: NU's Cerina on incident vs. OSU
- Northwestern basketball game photos
Value City Arena at The Jerome Schottenstein Center, The Ohio State University, 555 Borror Drive, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
Welsh-Ryan Arena, Northwestern University, 2705 Ashland Avenue, Evanston, IL 60208, USA
Head official Ray Perone told a pool reporter that Cerina will be suspended for Northwestern's next game, Saturday against Indiana, for "taking a swing with a closed hand."
The suspension was announced after Cerina met with the media.
He said of the incident: "We just got tangled up. That's pretty much it. I don't remember what happened."
Players swarmed in to break it up, but Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross escalated things by shoving Cerina in the back. Ross also shoved Drew Crawford, who did not retaliate.
"I had four fouls, so I would have been out of the game," Crawford said. "You have adrenaline going and your mind is telling you to get your guy's back. But you have to be smart and do the right thing, which is to get your guys out of the skirmish."
The officials took a long look at replays before ejecting Cerina and Ross, who was assessed two technical fouls and will not suspended.
Cerina jogged to the locker room as Buckeyes fans jeered.
"My main concern was what my team was going to do after that," he said.
The fracas did not affect Ohio State's dominant victory. The Buckeyes led by 16 at the time and won by 16.
The game's only other incident came when JerShon Cobb needlessly shoved Aaron Craft in the back on a fast break, earning an intentional foul.
Cobb had an off night, missing all five 3-point tries. Kale Abrahamson also struggled and was replaced by freshman Nate Taphorn, who played nine impactful minutes.
"I noticed a fire about him," Collins said. "He made some plays. He got us six points, a steal, a rebound and took the ball to the basket. He has earned himself a chance in our next game."
The Buckeyes came in averaging 66.2 points in Big Ten games but lit up the normally stout Northwestern defense.
Crawford scored a game-high 22 points for Northwestern (12-15, 5-9 Big Ten), which lost its fourth straight. Crawford hit 8 of 13, proving he recovered from his 1-for-15 nightmare against Minnesota on Sunday.
Ross scored 16 before getting tossed for the 24th-ranked Buckeyes (21-6, 8-6).