It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was the antithesis of pretty. The first half of Nebraska‘s (12-10, 4-6) trip to take on Northwestern (12-12, 5-6) in Evanston, Ill. caused more cringing than a dentist’s drill. Once again, the Cornhuskers found themselves set up for a loss on the road, something they could ill afford.
Few people will know what was said by Tim Miles in the Big Red locker room, but whatever it was, he lit a fire under Terran Petteway. Walking back out onto the court for a second half that featured a scoreboard with the Wildcats on top 22-16, Petteway would finish the game with 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block — most of that coming in the second half.
That passion gave Miles and Nebraska its first conference road victory, but something more important was taken away from the Welsh-Ryan Arena: belief. Yes, Petteway is Nebraska’s shining star, but in that second half, Northwestern found itself scrambling to find footing in very friendly confines. This young Cornhusker squad found composure in the latest roundball edition of The Battle of the NUs, something that they need to keep a death grip on as the season winds down.
After being pummeled by Michigan, this win was vital for morale. Now Nebraska gets to return to Pinnacle Bank Arena to show Illinois why the conference as a whole isn’t a fan of walking onto the Huskers’ home court.
Nebraska will find itself on the road yet again when it faces Michigan State on Feb 16. Yes, the opportunity for a slaughter’s there, but perhaps thanks to the seeds planted on Saturday, Petteway and the Huskers have a surprise in store for the Spartans.
Regardless of how that game turns out, the Big Red still has an excellent opportunity to end the regular season with a record far more impressive than the conference media thought. Miles’ team was supposed to be the worst the Big Ten had to offer. If it can continue to provide one of the biggest challenges in a hostile environment that’s rapidly gaining notoriety, Nebraska will happily take the title of “worst” when it comes to being a nightmare for visiting teams.