Pitchford leads Nebraska past W. Illinois 62-47

ERIC OLSON (AP Sports Writer)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- At 6-foot-10 and 234 pounds, Nebraska's Walter Pitchford doesn't possess the look of a 3-point sharpshooter.

Looks are deceiving in this case.

Pitchford made two of his three 3-pointers while leading the game-breaking run in the first half of the Cornhuskers' 62-47 victory over Western Illinois on Tuesday night.

''When he's fresh,'' coach Tim Miles said, ''he looks like he's hitting nothing but the back of the net.''

Pitchford scored all 14 of his points in the first half to lead four Nebraska players in double figures, and the Huskers (2-0) had solid follow-up to their 24-point win over Florida Gulf Coast in last Friday's opener.

The victory was the 300th of Miles' career. It surely wasn't his hardest.

The Huskers led by 23 points in the middle of the second half against an opponent picked to finish fourth in the Summit League.

''I knew it was my 300th win because I spoke to Rotary the other day and they announced that Tim Miles as a basketball coach has 299 wins,'' Miles deadpanned.

Miles, who came to Nebraska last year after five seasons at Colorado State, is 300-238 at five schools over 19 years. He said it was a special win to him because it came against his longtime friend Jim Molinari, who's in his sixth season at Western Illinois.

''I thought we had a hard time matching up with that team,'' Molinari said. ''Our strength was Michael Ochereobia. He can score down low against Walter Pitchford. The weakness was that (Ochereobia) couldn't guard him on the floor.''

Pitchford led the Huskers early. After making both of his 3-pointers against Florida Gulf Coast, he made one in the first minute against the Leathernecks and then two more during a 19-5 spurt that pushed Nebraska's lead to 31-14. He finished 5 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 6 on 3s.

''In high school one of my coaches really stressed to me that I needed to be versatile,'' Pitchford said. ''First I started working on my mid-range, and he told me I have to be more versatile. That brought it back to the 3, and I worked on it every day.''

Miles said Pitchford's ability to shoot from beyond the arc will give the Huskers a hard-to-defend element.

''Just look at the other coach's face and that'll tell you all you need to know,'' Miles said. ''It's a frustrating thing. Any pick-and-pop (center) is tough.''

As much as Miles likes Pitchford's shooting ability, the coach emphasized the big man's need to become tougher.

''He doesn't love physicality,'' Miles said. ''I don't know if that's a mystery our opponents haven't figured out. But we need some more inside scoring, and he can provide that.''

Terran Petteway had 13 points and nine rebounds, Shavon Shields added 13 points and reserve Leslee Smith had 10 points, five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.

Tate Stensgaard scored 10 points and Ochereobia added eight points and eight rebounds for the Leathernecks (0-2).

The Leathernecks couldn't find any rhythm in the first half. After committing a total of 10 turnovers in their opener, they had nine by halftime and shot just 32 percent while falling behind 36-17. They finished with 15 turnovers and shot 38 percent.

They outscored Nebraska 12-4 over the last 5 minutes.

''You know that it's going to get mucked up and they're not going to stop, and that's what happened,'' Miles said. ''We got a little tired, they stayed on the attack and we don't play the way we can. If that lead's not so big, we don't win.''

Garret Covington, who scored 22 points in the Leathernecks' season-opening loss at Idaho, was held to five points on 2-of-11 shooting.

Nebraska and Western Illinois played for the first time since 2001, and the Huskers have won all five meetings.