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Terran Petteway didn't realize just how good of a night it has been until he stood in front of the Big Ten Network cameras on the sideline after Nebraska's 82-78 win over Minnesota on Sunday. After pouring in a career-high and Pinnacle Bank Arena record 35 points to lead the Huskers to a big victory, the interview was the first time the sophomore forward had actually given much thought to his impressive personal statistics.
"When the commentator after the game told me I had my career high, I was surprised," Petteway said. "Even the guys in the locker room were like, 'Dang, that was a quiet 35.' I was like, 'I know. I didn't even know.'"
For Petteway, his performance against the Golden Gophers was just another instance of him doing everything possible to lead Nebraska to a victory. In reality, it was the latest example of the former Texas Tech transfer emerging into not only NU's go-to guy offensively, but one of the premier scorers in the Big Ten Conference.
Following his 35-point night, the highest total for a Big Ten player in league play so far this season, Petteway now ranks third in the conference in scoring at 18.2 points per game, which is less than a point off league leader Gary Harris of Michigan State (18.8). He also ranks sixth in the Big Ten in free throw percentage (83.6 percent), and 12th in both 3-pointers made (1.6 per game) and 3-point percentage (39.2).
His offensive consistency has also been extremely valuable for a Husker team that has been anything but this season. Petteway now has seven 20-point games on the year, including two 30-point efforts.
Head coach Tim Miles said Petteway's natural scoring ability was something you really couldn't coach, and combine that with his unrivaled work ethic in practice, there was no limit to just how good the Galveston, Texas, native could be when all was said and done.
"He's a machine," Miles said. "He really is. He's an excellent athlete. He can score in transition, he can make 3s. There were one or two bad shots I thought he took, and he made one of them, so you're like, 'That was a bad shot.' And he kind of looks at you like, 'OK.' But I'm not going to stop him, just try and slow him down a little bit.
"Terran, I just can't explain, he's obsessed with work. There is no doubt about it. I've had really hard workers throughout my career - 19 years, right - and I don't know if I've had a guy work harder at their game than Terran, and then be able to put it into team form. Not just me doing my thing, but team form. That's really an important integration not every player can pull off."
Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino was the latest opposing coach to feel the frustration of trying to slow down Petteway's torrid scoring pace. Pitino said he really wasn't surprised by Peteway's 35 points on Sunday night, as he was already well informed about the threat he posed when the Gophers were preparing for the game earlier in the week. He said assistant coach Ben Johnson, who worked heavily with Petteway one-on-one when he was on Miles' staff a year ago, had nothing but praise Petteway's abilities.
"We really liked him," Pitino said. "I think he is a good player. Ben Johnson told me he is probably the hardest working kid he has coached. So that definitely says a lot about him, he definitely deserves success. He made some big time plays and some big time shots. Guys that work that hard deserve to get better, he deserves success."
Petteway averaged 22.6 points in three games last week, but his numbers apparently weren't good enough to earn him Big Ten Player of the Week honors. Michigan's Nik Stauskas (22.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals in wins over Iowa and Michigan State) took home the honor instead.
Miles said his players don't pay much attention to individual accolades, instead focusing on gelling as a team and playing together as a group. Even so, Miles said he's noticed Petteway might not get the amount of attention his play deserves.
"He's probably an underrated guy," Miles said. "I would say I don't hear much about him, but I'm glad I have him. Some of the guys that have to play against him can tell you he can be a nightmare."