INDIANAPOLIS — Sometimes the littlest spark can start the biggest fires.
For the Ohio State men’s basketball team in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals against Nebraska, that spark came in the form of a technical foul called on junior forward LaQuinton Ross.
With the Buckeyes trailing by 12 — after the Cornhuskers went on an 11-2 run out of halftime — Ross was called for an offensive foul. In frustration, OSU’s leading scorer shoved an opposing player and was charged with a technical.
“It was a lot of extra stuff going on after the play was over, so I think that got to me a little bit,” Ross said after the game. “So that was the reason for the technical foul, a little frustration. But after that I was just trying to win the game.”
Despite Nebraska scoring six straight points after the foul, taking an 18-point lead in the process, the Buckeyes would storm back on the shoulders of Ross and sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle.
OSU outscored Nebraska 41-25 after Ross was hit with the technical, and held on for a 71-67 victory.
Junior forward Sam Thompson — who tallied seven points in the win — said the technical brought an end to Nebraska’s tough play, and turned the game around.
“We thought they were playing a little bit too physically,” Thompson said after the game. “They got some shots at us after the whistle was blown, we didn’t like how they were dancing on the bench, just the whole vibe we didn’t like that. (LaQuinton’s) technical brought it to an end, we were able to rally around that.”
This wasn’t the first time this season Ross’ been given a technical foul for shoving a player, having gotten one against Northwestern that led to his ejection and then another against Indiana.
“Unfortunately that’s a little familiar,” Craft said after the game against Nebraska. “He’s done that a couple times this year. I just think after the whistle, they catch the second guy. He threw an elbow and hit him in the face after the play … and they’re going to catch LaQuinton.”
But Craft said, unlike in previous incidents, this foul served as a motivator for OSU.
“It was kind of like an NBA game. (A) player or coach gets fired up and you get ejected and you start rallying around him,” Craft said. “I don’t condone that because that got us down 16 at one point. They made the free throws and got a bucket. We don’t want that to happen, but if it works out, it works out.”
After picking up a technical caused by emotion — much like the one Ross picked up — coaches often elect to bench the player to give them some time to calm down.
But OSU coach Thad Matta elected for the opposite, leaving Ross on the floor and giving his leading scorer a chance to bring his team back from the brink of elimination.
Ross went on to score 16 of his career-high 26 points after the technical foul, including the 3-pointer that started the run.
“That play was over,” Ross said of the technical foul. “I wasn’t thinking about that play again. I looked up at the score and how bad we were down and we just had to get some motivation and get back in the game.”
Ross added that the comeback was partially because of OSU refusing to lose control.
“We stayed together through the whole thing,” Ross said. “There was never any panic during the whole situation. If you watch some of our games earlier in the year, we (were) down less points than that, I think we were down 18 here. A couple games, like Minnesota, we (were) probably down five and we panicked. But that game right there we (were) able to not panic and got through it.”
Next up Ross and the Buckeyes will look to push themselves past top-seeded Michigan Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Tipoff is set for 1:40 p.m.