Terran Petteway gingerly walked out of the visiting locker room, his back aching and his head hanging after one of his most frustrating performances of the season. The last thing he wanted to do following Nebraska's 60-49 loss at Illinois on Wednesday night was talk about what all went wrong, but being one of his team's captains, Petteway knew it was just part of the role.
Though he was the only Husker to score in double figures in the defeat with 13 points, Petteway didn't look anything like the player that had captured the attention of the college basketball world and put himself in the Big Ten Player of the Year discussion with his efforts during NU's recent winning streak. The sophomore guard was just 5-of-18 from the field and 1-of-6 from 3-point range, and he was essentially a non-factor for the first 30 minutes.
The question for Petteway after the game was whether his struggles Wednesday night had to do with him just having an off night, or were they more a result of him trying too hard to live up to the individual pressure his recent play has generated?
"Not at all," Petteway said. "The wins that we've been getting have been team wins. It hasn't just been because of me, it's been a team effort all year long. This was a team loss. It wasn't on just one person. It was a team loss, just like all the wins we had."
Head coach Tim Miles wasn't worried about Petteway handling being in the national spotlight either. Despite his rough outing, Petteway is still averaging 18.2 points per game following the Illinois loss, which keeps him in sole possession of first place on the Big Ten scoring leader list. You can also look to the few moments where the Galveston, Texas, native seemed like his normal self, particularly his run of five straight points with about eight minutes left that turned a 13-point deficit to eight.
Unfortunately, after Nebraska got another defensive stop on Illinois' ensuing possession with a chance to make it a two-score game, Petteway through an ill-advised pass that was quickly stolen and resulted in a basket for the Fighting Illini. It may have been a night to forget for all of the Huskers, but Miles said he wasn't concerned one bit about Petteway bouncing back to his old ways next time out against Northwestern on Saturday.
"He's going to have a lot more pressure in his life than a basketball game," Miles said. "He just had a tough night. I thought he started with some quick outside shots, and usually he adjusts. I thought the first play of the second half he got to the rim right away and got fouled, but then there was only a few other times we saw him on the attack like we usually do."
There's also the issue of how healthy Petteway is at this point in the season. Having started all 27 games this year and playing an average of 31.7 minutes per contest - second on the team only to Shavon Shields (31.9) - Petteway has been on the court as much as any Husker. Earlier this week, Miles said Petteway had to sit out the practice before the Penn State game while nursing a sore back. Before taking the court for the second half at Illinois, Petteway spent the bulk of warm-ups by the bench getting his back stretched out by team trainers.
Combine that with his off night, it's fair to ask how healthy Petteway is right now. Like he does with any setback, though, he refused to let that serve as an excuse for him not being at his best.
"I've just got to take care of my body, really," Petteway said. "It wasn't nothing to make an excuse for the way I played tonight at all."