Nebraska's Terran Petteway drives to the basket past Indiana's Jeremy Hollowell on Thursday at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb. (Eric Francis / Getty Images)
Lincoln, Neb. — At the final buzzer, Terran Petteway spiked the basketball hard and high. Nebraska had just finished a 60-55 victory over Indiana after coming back from a 16-point deficit.
Petteway celebrated not because the Cornhuskers beat one of college basketball’s so-called blue-bloods. This is not, after all, a vintage Indiana team this season.
No, Petteway’s show of emotion had more to do with another small step the long-struggling Huskers took Thursday night.
“I was just happy we got two wins in a row,” Petteway said. “Now we have to keep building on it.”
The Huskers (11-9, 3-5 Big Ten) won for the third time in four games and back-to-back conference games for the first time in their three years in the Big Ten. They also improved to 10-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Hoosiers (13-8, 3-5) have lost three of their last four.
Petteway, coming off a 35-point game in a win over Minnesota on Sunday, scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half. Shavon Shields and Walter Pitchford scored 11 points apiece and Ray Gallegos added 10 for Nebraska.
The Huskers, who lost their first four Big Ten games, moved into a four-way tie for seventh place with Ohio State, Purdue and the Hoosiers.
“When we started conference and lost a couple in a row, it was kind of discouraging,” Shields said. “We stayed with it. We know we can play with anyone. We know we can beat anyone. Why not?”
Nebraska struggled against Indiana’s zone defense in the first half, shooting 35 percent and missing 6 of 8 3-pointers. The Huskers got their perimeter shooters open in the second half, shot 53 percent and made 6 of 11 from beyond the arc.
“We took pride in our defense the first half,” point guard Yogi Ferrell said. “Second half we had a letdown. If we don’t have pride in our defense through the whole game, we won’t win games.”
The Huskers shot 43 percent for the game, were outrebounded 31-22 and committed 14 turnovers.
“We found a way to win tonight,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “We have to credit (our players) for being able to scratch out a victory even when they’re not at their best. It’s one thing to shoot well and win. It’s another to go out and scratch out a win. I was proud they did that.”
Ferrell, who made 4 of 7 3-pointers, led the Hoosiers with 14 points. Will Sheehey and Stanford Robinson had 12 apiece. Noah Vonleh, the Hoosiers’ freshman sensation and the Big Ten’s top rebounder, was held to seven points and three boards and he committed five of Indiana’s 19 turnovers.
“Just a tough night. He’s a freshman. He was out there and worked hard,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean, a former Michigan State assistant coach. “He wasn’t as emphatic and decisive as he needs to be. Just one of those nights. He’s 18. He’s going to be fine.”
Petteway drained a huge 3-pointer with the shot clock running down to put the Huskers up 56-50 with 2:04 to play. The Hoosiers got within 58-55 on Ferrell’s 3-pointer with 47 seconds to play but could get no closer.
The Hoosiers had their chances to come back as Nebraska went just 4 of 8 from the free-throw line in the last 1:09. But they committed four turnovers and missed four of their last five shots.
The Huskers outscored the Hoosiers 20-8 to start the second half and close to 40-39 with the help of a four-point play by Gallegos. Indiana went scoreless for more than 6 minutes before Vonleh’s hook shot in the lane put the Hoosiers up 43-39. But Petteway’s baseline jumper and a couple of free throws by Tai Webster tied it 43-all with 8:54 left.
The teams combined for 23 turnovers in a grinding first half. Nebraska’s 19 points were the fewest in a half this season and matched the fewest points allowed in a half by Indiana.
“We were in control of the game in the first half,” Crean said. “We lost this game more on the defensive end more so than what we didn’t get offensively.”