Published Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 9:31 pm / Updated at 2:13 pm
Huskers turn nightmare into a victory

LINCOLN — Needed: one work order at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Site: Nebraska men’s basketball locker room.

Reason for repair: head coach Tim Miles’ halftime speech Thursday night. It was a paint-peeler.

After seeing his team fall behind by 16 points late in the first half, Miles let his players have it. They, in turn, let Indiana have it by rallying for a 60-55 victory in front of 15,107 jumping-for-joy fans.

The outcome, four days after a win over Minnesota, gives the Huskers (11-9, 3-5) their first back-to-back victories since joining the Big Ten three years ago.
NU, with three wins in the past four games, is in a four-way tie for seventh place.

“We beat Ohio State. That’s a great brand,” Miles said. “We beat Indiana. That’s a great brand win. We beat Minnesota, which I think is a really good team. And we were one inch away from beating Michigan.

“So I think we are at least establishing ourselves as a pretty good home team and a tough out.”

Nebraska’s stars Thursday down the stretch — Terran Petteway, who led all scorers with 18 points, and Shavon Shields, who had 11 points, four assists and four steals — looked to the floor and smiled sheepishly when asked about Miles’ halftime oratory.

“He wasn’t happy,” Shields said.

Any paint left on the walls?

“A little bit,” Shields said.

Was the pile of first-half turnovers mentioned?

“Let’s see,” Shields mused. “What didn’t he say at halftime is a better question.”

The first half was a Nebraska nightmare — down 32-19 at the break, and it was only that close because Petteway escaped for a 3-point play with 1:41 to go.

It was the fewest points in a half this season. The previous low was 22 against Miami. There were more turnovers (11) than field goals (8). And the rebounding deficit was 20-8.

“So I challenged them,” Miles said, after declining to recite his speech verbatim because his mother watches his postgame interviews.

“I told them I thought they were tentative. And that we couldn’t be or we would lose. We were getting killed on the boards, we were turning the ball over ... we were standing around like we didn’t even know what sport we were playing.”

Nebraska’s problems resulted from a crafty defensive wrinkle by Indiana (13-8, 3-5).

The Hoosiers changed defenses frequently, at times playing man-to-man and zone in the same possession. They also disguised a matchup zone to look like a triangle-and-two.

“The first half, we weren’t on the attack the way we should have been,” Petteway said. “Like Penn State, they threw a lot of defenses at us and we stopped attacking.”

Nebraska’s offense ground to a halt for two long periods in the first half — scoreless spells of 5:09 and 5:35. The second of those allowed Indiana to build a 32-16 lead with 2:00 to go.

“But the second half,” Petteway said, “we got our composure back. And that’s when we made our run.”

The Huskers scored on their first six possessions of the second half to cut Indiana’s lead to 40-36. After forcing ties at 43 and 46, NU took its first lead since it was 7-4 when Shields hit two free throws with 6:57 to go.

That brought the roar of the night from the PBA fans.

“They’ve been great, especially now that the conference season has started,” Shields said. “We feed off them. The place gets rocking in here, I’m not going to lie.

“When we make plays, it just gets louder and louder. It got super loud tonight.”

The noise continued after forward Walter Pitchford hit a 3-pointer off a Petteway assist. Shields followed with another basket, and Petteway nailed a fadeaway 3 with 2:03 left for a 56-50 lead. Indiana never got within one possession with the ball again.

Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said his team lost “defensive awareness” in the second half.

“There is a certain way (Nebraska) wants to play,” he said. “The first half, we did a pretty good job of taking that away. The second half, we allowed them to get too comfortable on the perimeter.”

Nebraska hit 6 of 11 3s in the second half compared to 2 of 8 in the first.

“We worked hard for a couple of days (on our plan) and reviewed it again at halftime,” Crean said. “We didn’t want to get ‘off’ their shooters. We wanted to extend more than usual.

“When you have shooters like they have ... they made some big shots, and we just weren’t as aware.”

* * *

Video: Highlights from Nebraska-Indiana

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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