If Terran Petteway is ailing, he won’t admit it.

See, Petteway isn’t into excuses. It’s March. Enduring a physical grind, he said, should be expected of him.

Same goes for his Nebraska basketball teammates.

“We got to come ready to work,” Petteway said. “This part of the season, we’re playing for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than anything that Nebraska has seen in, what, the last 17 years?”

That, of course, is how long it’s been since Nebraska has played in the NCAA Tournament.

To stay on path for an at-large bid that would end that streak, the Huskers (16-11, 8-7 Big Ten Conference) can’t afford a slip-up Saturday against Northwestern (12-16, 5-10) at sold-out Pinnacle Bank Arena.

That means bottling up what happened at Illinois on Wednesday … and putting it in front of a tire of an 18-wheeler.

“We were panicky. We were pressuring. You could see it in us,” Petteway said of the 60-49 loss that snapped Nebraska’s five-game winning streak. “We were pressing and rushing a lot of things, kind of like we were doing at the beginning of conference (play).

“I think we’ll get back to what we were doing, playing team defense and playing team basketball."

Petteway, a sophomore guard who’s averaging 18.2 points to lead the Big Ten in scoring, struggled through a 5-of-18 shooting performance Wednesday. At times, he grimaced.

He smiled Friday and shrugged off a question about whether any ailments were holding him back.

“Aw, nothing,” he said. “Nothing.”

Nebraska coach Tim Miles said Petteway, who missed a practice before a Feb. 20 game against Penn State because of a tight back, is fine, but also said he’s “one of those guys you’ve got to watch” this time of year.

"He had a tough night. We all had a tough night," Miles said. "There’s no doubt we’re riding him hard, but I think we’re giving him as much rest as we possibly can.”

Now the calendar turns to March, marking the seventh straight month teams have been practicing.

“I’ve been a coach 19 seasons, and the one thing I’m always surprised about is how much motivating and inspiring you have to do in February and March,” Miles said. “It’s just such a grind and such a long haul. Everybody goes through it, everybody’s beat up, you’re playing hurt.

“And then there’s a lot of outside distractions or pressure on the guys. You have to work hard to keep them together, keep them confident and keep them playing free and easy.”

Returning to Pinnacle Bank Arena, where Nebraska is 13-1 this season, should help matters.

Petteway agreed the Huskers are more aggressive at home, mostly because they’re feeding off the energy of the sellout crowds.

“Once you hear the crowd is for you, it’s a big difference,” Petteway said. “It pushes your confidence to another level.”

Northwestern might not be fazed. The Wildcats have won at Wisconsin, at Minnesota and at Indiana. Still, they come to Lincoln feeling the wear and tear, too, having lost five in a row — a streak that began with a Feb. 8 home loss to Nebraska — and are now playing without a key starter.

Junior guard JerShon Cobb, who had a team-high 14 points in the first meeting with Nebraska, is out for the season with a foot injury.

“They’re smaller (without Cobb),” Miles said. “When they were bigger, they were able to switch more things effectively. I would think it would hurt them defensively more than anything, although I thought he was really good on offense and he posed us some problems.”