With their leading scorer and leading rebounder both having graduated, few believed that Nebraska would be able to begin its climb to respectability during the 2013-14 season. Picked to finish dead last in the Big Ten preseason poll, Tim Miles’ Huskers held out hope that transfers Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford would be ready to assume starring roles.
And after an 0-4 start to conference play Nebraska’s turned things around in a big way, and their 77-68 win over No. 9 Wisconsin moved the Huskers closer to their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1998.
Petteway and Pitchford were once again key figures for Nebraska (19-11, 11-7), with Petteway accounting for 26 points and ten rebounds and Pitchford adding 15 points and five rebounds. But they weren’t alone, as guard Shavon Shields put together his second-best performance in conference play. Shield scored 26 points on 10-for-17 shooting, with his dribble penetration punishing Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6) on numerous occasions.
As a team Nebraska shot 52% from the field, and after failing to attempt a single free throw the Huskers attempted 25 in the second. Granted some of those attempts came late when the Badgers were giving fouls in an attempt to close the gap, but Nebraska was able to force opportunities when the game was still in doubt with their ability to break Wisconsin down off the dribble.
Nebraska also took great care of the basketball, turning the ball over five times, and they also managed to make Wisconsin pay for its mistakes. Wisconsin turned the ball over just 11 times but Nebraska took full advantage, scoring 17 points off of those turnovers. That all adds up to a quality victory for Nebraska, with the Huskers also earning a bye in the Big Ten tournament.
How many wins will Nebraska, which will play the winner of the Ohio State/Purdue matchup, need in Indianapolis? That’s anyone’s guess, with the members of the selection committee being the only ones who truly know the answer. But for Nebraska to be in this position considering how they started conference play is a credit to Tim Miles and his program, which has made far greater strides than anyone expected in year two.