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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Ryan turns to guards with Leuer sidelined

While the injury to junior forward Jon Leuer appeared to be a major roadblock for the Wisconsin men\’s basketball team, the Badgers proved in Evanston that they would still be tough to beat in 2010.[/media-credit]

“Jon who?”

That was head coach Bo Ryan’s reaction in an interview with the Big Ten Network following Wisconsin’s win Wednesday over Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

While Ryan was obviously joking and noted he told junior forward Jon Leuer he was going to say that, it brought a unique perspective to the question on everyone’s mind. That is, how the Wisconsin Badgers will react to the loss of Leuer, who had wrist surgery after fracturing a bone in his left wrist early in the UW victory over then-No. 4 Purdue.


True to form, however, Ryan’s squad never appeared fazed by the loss of the 6-foot-10 forward from Long Lake, Minn.

“Is it a disadvantage to have something happen? I’m sure people talk about that all the time,” Ryan said in his weekly press conference following the injury. “But when you’re in the moment, and you’ve got to direct a team, and you’ve got to be a player on the team, and you’re the one that’s going to be getting some minutes, you’re only thinking about one thing — what can I do to help this team. So we won’t approach it any differently.”

Based on the team’s first game following Leuer’s injury, Ryan was not kidding when he said his team would not approach things any differently.

Wisconsin’s rotation without Leuer remained, for the most part, the same as it was with him starting in the five spot. The only true difference was the Badgers’ heavy use of three and four-guard lineups with their largest player on the floor being 6-foot-8 or shorter.

A lack of offensive production from the bench was a stark contrast to recent games, but when considering sophomore guard Jordan Taylor was moved from the sixth man spot to the starting lineup, the drop off in bench production is not surprising.

And while many expected forward Jared Berggren to see a noticeable increase in playing time, the redshirt freshman never took off his warm-ups Wednesday night in Evanston, Ill. Instead, it was Berggren’s fellow freshmen Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz — both of whom already saw significant playing time with a healthy Leuer — who received the biggest benefit in terms of playing time with Leuer out of the lineup.

Bruesewitz, a true freshman from St. Paul, Minn., was not exactly thrilled with the opportunity, however.

“The thing that’s probably going to hurt the most for me personally is I don’t get to go against Jon for the next four to six weeks, or however long he’s going to be out — four, eight or whatever weeks,” he said. “He’s going to be out for a while and I don’t get to go to practice against him, which is not fun for me.

“I personally view it as a challenge every day to go against Jon and Keaton and all the other bigs for myself personally.”

Bruesewitz, along with Evans and sophomore guard Rob Wilson, responded well when called upon against Northwestern, combining for four points in 18 minutes.

It was the Badgers’ starters, however, who really answered the call.

Though many expected increased minutes and production from Berggren, Bruesewitz and Evans, they actually saw their respective playing time decrease from the previous week. Wisconsin’s five starters, on the other hand, rarely saw time on the bench.

Senior guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon never left the court and as a whole, the Badgers’ five starters averaged 36.4 minutes while scoring all but four of UW’s 60 points.

“We just stuck to our game plan, you know, we didn’t change anything up,” Bohannon said. “We lost a big contributor to our team, but other guys stepped up and they contributed somehow. Coach always has that mentality of ‘next guy in line.’ We had a couple of those guys ready to go and they’re going to keep getting better.”

Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Ryan and the Badgers stick to the guard heavy lineup with Bohannon, Hughes and Taylor all starting. What’s clear from the last week though, including the Purdue game, is UW’s strength lies in its backcourt.

When Wisconsin’s three guards — one of the best backcourt trios in the nation — are all on the floor together and playing at the level they have against the Boilermakers and Wildcats, they’re a tough team to beat, even without Leuer.

This was especially clear during a four-minute stretch in which Hughes scored 14 of the Badgers’ 16 points with a little help from Taylor on the offensive glass.

“He looked like an All-American out there,” Taylor said of Hughes. “When he does that, he is as good as any guard in the country.”

Yet, the Badgers’ newfound lack of size had just the opposite effect Saturday in Columbus.

As they battled with the Ohio State Buckeyes, who have been hot since the return of guard/forward Evan Turner, the Badgers struggled to score as they had trouble knocking down outside shots.

Though Hughes matched David Lighty with a game-high 18 points, Bohannon and Taylor struggled to score, combining for just 16 points. As a result, the strong performances of Lighty and Turner led to a 60-51 loss for then-No. 13 Wisconsin.

“Inside post presence is something that you have to have, whether you’re home or away,” Ryan told reporters after the game. “Both ends, on defense and offense.”

If Wisconsin is going to be successful with Leuer out, the Badgers will have to find that post presence or expect to live and die beyond the arc. Either way, it should be an exciting next couple of weeks.

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