LINCOLN, NEB. — Walter Pitchford missed all five of his three point attempts against Omaha Tuesday. Friday, Pitchford hit his first four 3-pointers and finished with a career-high six threes and 19 points to lead Nebraska past Tennessee-Martin 75-64.
"Somebody said I was in a slump, I say 'What slump?,' Pitchford said "It's not in my vocabulary...Some nights they go in, some nights they don't. Changes? I put in a little extra time in the gym, just concentrating, tweaking little things."
Nebraska coach Tim Miles said he and assistant Kenya Hunter worked with Pitchford on his shot in practice this week, then ran plays for him to start the game.
"He's worked really hard to get a rhythm shooting," Miles said. "We ran some stuff for him early. I thought that was critical and it got him going."
Nebraska (4-1) used a 17-4 run in the last seven minutes of the first half to take a 13-point halftime lead. The Huskers stretched that advantage to 19 on Benny Parkers' free throws with 14:26 left.
Tennessee-Martin (3-2) then responded with a 17-2 run of its own, slicing the Nebraska lead to 54-50 after the second of Deville Smith's back-to-back 3 pointers with 9:10 remaining.
Terran Petteway's jumper started a 10-3 Nebraska run that was capped by Shavon Shields' layup with 6:38 left and made the score 64-53. The Skyhawks cut the Nebraska lead to 8 on Twymond Howard's jumper with 56 seconds left. Nebraska made five of six free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
The Huskers trailed 24-23 after Myles Taylor's free throws with 6:36 in the half. Tai Webster hit a 3-pointer to start a 17-3 Nebraska half-closing run. Webster's jumper with 51 seconds left put Nebraska up by double digits for the first time and Tarin Smith's buzzer-beating layup pushed the halftime lead to 40-27.
"We had a lot of good things going offensively," Miles said. "I thought we were a little tired tonight, both teams were. Thanksgiving does that to you. That turkey makes you sleepy. We got the lead, then they started draining the 3s. I liked what we were doing offensively for a long time."
Tennessee-Martin coach Heath Schroyer also liked how his team played on offense, but they had no answer for what Pitchford brought Friday.
"We have been pretty good offensively so far this season," Schroyer said. "We have shot 50 percent on the year, and I thought we got pretty good looks tonight, when guys stepped up and made them. Pitchford came out and hit his first three 3s. It makes them really hard to guard when that five-man can start knocking down shots and spreading the floor."
Howard had 18 points to lead Tennessee-Martin. Smith had 15 points for the Skyhawks, Taylor finished with 11 and Alex Anderson had 10.
Petteway finished with 18 points and a career-high 8 assists for Nebraska.
Nebraska: Shavon Shields, Nebraska's leading scorer averaging 23 points a game coming into Friday's contest, had just five points on 2-of-9 shooting. "You thought there's no way he's going to be sustaining that high level," said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. "I'm glad Walt (Pitchford) picked us up."
Tennessee-Martin: Friday's game was the second of six straight road games for the Skyhawks. Tennessee-Martin won't play at home again until it faces Presbyterian on Dec. 20.
*** Posted by Josh Harvey ***