Nebraska’s Offense is Better Without Terran Petteway

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 11th, 2015

Folks in Nebraska are accustomed to seeing their Cornhuskers start the season slowly, and this year has been no exception as Tim Miles’ team is now 6-4 for the second straight December. Despite the identical record, the numbers show that this year’s team is better than the disappointing 13-18 group of a season ago, and the improvement centers on the absence of Terran Petteway. Yes, the Nebraska offense is actually better without the services of last year’s leading scorer.

Andrew White has replaced Terran Petteway as Nebraska's go-to scorer (Photo Credit: Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications)

Andrew White has replaced Terran Petteway as Nebraska’s go-to scorer (Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications)

Before the season, we touched on the possibility of Nebraska’s offense improving without Petteway in the lineup. The basis for such a prediction was that his high usage rate – he took 33.4 percent of the Cornhuskers’ shots when he was on the floor – and less-than-stellar shooting (39.6%) hurt Nebraska’s overall offensive efficiency. Sure enough, the absence of a high-volume, low-percentage scorer has helped Miles’ squad spread the ball around among a corps of talented newcomers and improved returnees. This increased sharing of opportunity has led to better ball movement, which has in kind also led to better shooting percentages and a more sustainable and efficient offensive operation. Last year, Petteway was one of three Nebraska players to take more than 20 percent of the team’s shots when he was on the floor. This year, Nebraska has five players at above 20 percent — proof positive of a Cornhuskers team dividing its allocation of shots better than it did a year ago.

Andrew White is averaging a team-high 17.5 PPG and has carried the offense at times. The junior actually hasn’t taken that many fewer shots than Petteway did a year ago (he absorbs 29 percent of the team’s shots when on the floor), but he’s making much, much more of them. He shoots 57 percent from two-point range and 42 percent from three, and at 15.7 percent of his possessions, he turns the ball over quite a bit less frequently than Petteway (18.6%) last year. All of these statistics contribute to White’s stellar 119.6 offensive rating, a number 25 points better than Petteway’s 2014-15 rating. It is certainly unfair to pin all of last year’s issues on a departed player, but the most notable difference in this year’s offense is in the improvement of the team’s supporting cast. Shavon Shields had a solid season as Petteway’s sidekick, but several other minute-eaters — namely Walter Pitchford, Benny Parker and Tai Webster  simply did not play well last season.

Webster has been much more reliable this season. His shooting percentage is up nine points to 45 percent and he’s averaging 9.9 points per game as a viable third scoring option behind White and Shields. Freshman point guard Glynn Watson Jr. isn’t yet shooting the ball well (34%), but his 3.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio has helped steady the offense. Fellow freshman Jack McVeigh brings shooting (40 percent from three) off the bench, a luxury Miles didn’t have last season. It all adds up to an improved offense, but as evidenced by a 0.86 points per possession effort in an 83-67 loss at Creighton on Wednesday, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Nebraska isn’t yet an offensive juggernaut, but early signs this year show definite improvement over the offensive misery of a year ago. All four losses have come to top 60 teams, so don’t pass final judgment just yet. It may turn out that sharing the ball in the absence of its star player will give the Cornhuskers a real chance to compete in the Big Ten.

Patrick Engel (33 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *