- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - Nebraska caught its breath, and then let out a big sigh of relief.

Terran Petteway scored 17 points, and the Cornhuskers overcame a slow start to beat Northwestern 53-49 on Saturday.

Walter Pitchford added 15 points, nailing three 3-pointers, and Nebraska (12-10, 4-6 Big Ten) put aside a blowout loss to Michigan earlier in the week and a slow start in this game.

The Cornhuskers trailed by six after an ugly first half and blew an eight-point lead late in the second but managed to pull this one out.

“Really just took our time in the second half,” Petteway said. “Took a deep breath and just ran the things that coach was drawing up. We had to get our confidence. The first half was a little shaky because we always play like that on the road, but once we came back out at halftime we were all calm. Started attacking, that’s when we started getting momentum.”

Northwestern (12-12, 5-6) had just scored eight straight to tie it at 44 when Pitchford hit two free throws and a 3 to make it a five-point game with 2:25 left.

Then, after two free throws by the Wildcats’ JerShon Cobb, Petteway nailed a long 3 with a defender on him to make it a six-point game with 22 seconds remaining. Northwestern’s Sanjay Lumpkin answered with one of his own, but the Cornhuskers hung on for their first conference road win.

They shot 40.4 percent after a horrible start, and Petteway came up big in the second half after struggling in the early going.

He hit just 5 of 16 shots in the game and committed five turnovers. But he also grabbed eight rebounds and helped contain Drew Crawford.

Pitchford was 3 of 4 from long range with family members looking on. A Chicago native, the sophomore originally signed with DePaul before his senior year in high school but never played for the Blue Demons. He was ultimately released from his letter of intent and wound up attending postgraduate school at East Lansing (Mich.) Summit Christian Academy.

He then spent the 2011-12 season at Florida before transferring to Nebraska.

“I couldn’t bring all the family. We would have probably had a student section for my family,” Pitchford said.

Cobb scored 14 for Northwestern, which had won five of seven. Crawford finished with 13 points but was just 4 of 13 from the field. He also turned the ball over five times.

Even so, he led the charge as Northwestern wiped out a 44-36 deficit late in the game.

Crawford hit back-to-back 3s and Demps tied it on a layup with just less than 4 minutes left. But Pitchford and Petteway came through down the stretch for Nebraska.

“They hit a couple big shots down the stretch and we didn’t,” coach Chris Collins said after watching Northwestern shoot 37 percent. “That was the difference. We had been making those shots those last few games, and today, we didn’t. We got the game tied and they hit incredible shots at the end of the shot clock. Petteway’s 3 was from about 27 feet with a guy all over him.”

The Cornhuskers appeared to be on their way to a loss trailing 22-16 at the half.

Petteway, who came in averaging 17.5 points, hit just 1 of 7 shots and committed four turnovers, and the 16 points were a season low in a half for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were 6 of 24 from the field while missing 9 of 11 3-pointers, but they turned it around in the second half.

“Coach really just talked to us about just focusing, calming down. Just play together,” Pitchford said. “We were rushing shots obviously, but we came out playing like we needed to play in the second half and we didn’t do that the full game.”

They were able to get in the lane and connect from the outside in the second half, going 13 of 23 overall and hitting 5 of 9 3s.

“We got some stuff to the rim in the second half,” coach Tim Miles said. “We shot 56 percent in the second half. We’ll take that on the road.”

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