Petteway scored 23 points, Pitchford had 18 and the Cornhuskers beat Michigan State 60-51 on Sunday to get to .500 in the Big Ten for the first time since joining the conference.
"We really came in and played with a chip on our shoulder," said Petteway, who had 16 in the second half.
It also was Nebraska's first Big Ten win over Michigan State. The Cornhuskers (14-10, 6-6) have won three straight conference games for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
"It was just a matter of staying together," Pitchford said. "We couldn't let the crowd dictate the game."
Gary Harris had 18 points on 5-for-15 shooting and Adreian Payne scored 11 for Michigan State (21-5, 10-3), which lost out on an opportunity to move a game ahead of No. 15 Michigan in the conference race.
The Spartans shot 34 percent (17 for 50), including a 5-for-24 performance from 3-point range.
"We got what we deserved," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "And the only guy to blame for that is me. It's my job to get them ready to play, and we didn't look ready to play."
Nebraska jumped out to leads of 6-0 and 13-4. The Cornhuskers had a 32-25 advantage at halftime and held off a second-half surge by closing the game with a 9-2 run.
"I've only been here a year and a half," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. "But for us, obviously, it's a marquee win."
It was Michigan State's first loss to Nebraska since Dec. 10, 1994, when the Cornhuskers rallied for a 96-91 overtime victory over the 15th-ranked Spartans. Michigan State had won six of seven against Nebraska in East Lansing.
It's been a difficult stretch of late for the Spartans, who have dropped four of seven after winning 11 in a row.
"This was a game we were supposed to win," Payne said. "But they wanted it more, and we didn't really come through."
Nebraska outhustled the Spartans for most of the game, helping the Cornhuskers make up for their own shaky offensive performance. They shot 36 percent (19 for 53) from the field.
After Payne's layup pulled Michigan State to 51-49, the Spartans grabbed a defensive rebound and called timeout with their crowd roaring. Kenny Kaminski then air-balled a 3 from the left wing and Petteway made a contested 3 on the other end.
"I think there are certain moments in time that you have to define yourself," Miles said. "I really believe in this group. We're coming together and figuring things out."
Michigan State got off to a slow start but put together a 12-0 run to take a 15-13 lead. But that would be the biggest advantage for the Spartans, who blew several defensive assignments, including on the game's first possession.
"Today, we were the ones who didn't bring it," Izzo said. "And Nebraska, they were junkyard dogs. They reminded me of some of our old teams. They took it at us. They talked it, they walked it, they played it."
Spartans point guard Keith Appling returned after a three-game absence due to a sore right wrist. He played 19 minutes but had just two points and one assist after not practicing for two weeks.
"We decided after warm-ups that we were going to try to play him some," Izzo said. "He tried to do what he could do. But if you're a skill guy, it's a little harder to come back."
Petteway was 7-for-17 from the field and Pitchford went 6-for-12 for Nebraska. No other Cornhusker had more than two baskets. But with just five turnovers, it was an afternoon to remember.
"Coach Miles told us the way you win on the road is to get ahead and stay ahead, and that's what we did," Petteway said. "We were just trying to pack the paint and make them score over top of us. That worked out pretty well."
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