EVANSTON, Ill. — The Nebraska men's basketball team's “oh-fer” on the road is finally over.
The Huskers' 53-49 win Saturday against Northwestern was the first true road victory in eight tries. They were the last Big Ten team without a road win.
NU (12-10, 4-6) overcame a gruesome first half — scoring a season-low 16 points while recording more turnovers than field goals — to rack up 37 second-half points.
Nebraska took the lead with 14:23 left on a Walter Pitchford 3-pointer and never fell behind again. The 6-foot-10 sophomore scored 13 of his career-high 15 points in the second half.
“That was a great second half,” Husker coach Tim Miles said on his radio show. “We finally got some offensive flow.”
“And it's a great feeling to finally get a road win,” said NU guard Terran Petteway, whose 25-foot 3-pointer that beat the shot-clock buzzer with 23 seconds left clinched the win. “Now, we've got to keep building on it.”
Though Nebraska never trailed the final 14:23, there was plenty of drama.
The Huskers built their biggest lead on a sequence that left Northwestern coach Chris Collins fuming.
The Wildcats appeared to earn a basket on what looked like a goal-tended shot. But no call was made, and NU point guard Benny Parker raced for a layup at the other end for a 44-36 Husker lead with 6:03 to play.
Parker, a sophomore, had five points and two key steals in his 16 minutes, playing much of the second half in place of an ineffective Tai Webster, who went scoreless in 19 minutes and had three turnovers.
“Benny created two or three turnovers into transition,” Miles said. “He was really critical for us. We needed his defensive intensity because we weren't getting a lot out of Tai.”
Northwestern (12-12, 5-6) responded with eight straight points to tie it with 3:52 left. The Wildcats' Drew Crawford had six of his 13 points in that burst.
Pitchford stopped that surge by drawing a foul, making two free throws, then draining a 3-pointer off an assist from Petteway for a 49-44 lead with 2:26 to go. Those points put Pitchford in double figures for the fourth straight game, a personal best.
Then after Northwestern closed to within three points and had Nebraska deep in the shot clock in the final 30 seconds, Petteway swished his bomb to secure the win.
Petteway, the Big Ten's fourth-leading scorer at 17.5 a game, got 17 along with eight rebounds and four assists.
“The first half was kind of shaky, which is the way we always play on the road,” Petteway said. “Once we came back out at halftime, we were all calm and started attacking.”
Miles said the victory helps change the conversation some about his team.
“People are going to not talk about it as much now,” he said, referencing the road win. “When you don't have one, that's what comes up.”
With five of its final eight games at home, Nebraska has endured what Miles called “the most brutal part of our schedule.”
“We're still going to have probably a top 20 schedule in the country,” he said. “If we can win enough games, hopefully that puts us in a situation with some form of postseason play.”
Nebraska's next game is 8 p.m. Wednesday at home against Illinois, which has lost eight straight entering Sunday's game with Penn State.