With senior forward Zach Morley day-to-day (left leg) and freshman forward Brian Butch out indefinitely (mononucleosis), the Badgers gave little used forwards Jason Chappell and Greg Stiemsma meaningful minutes in Wisconsin's 72-69 win over Iowa Wednesday night.
"It is always good to get some experience and get out there when the game's actually on the line," Chappell said. "It feels good. I can build off of that now, see where we can take it."
Chappell pulled down three rebounds, including an offensive carom that led to a put back, in just the ninth game he has played in this season. Stiemsma, seeing action for the sixth time this year, had one rebound.
"In the first half, the game was kind of on the ropes," Stiemsma said. "It felt good just to get in. I was kind of ready for it, though, knowing that some guys were down."
In practice Thursday, as Wisconsin (16-5 overall, 7-3 Big Ten) turned its attention to Saturday's noon tip-off at No. 1 Illinois (24-0, 10-0), Stiemsma kept his usual scout team threads cloistered, instead spending his time with the Badgers' top eight.
Prior to this week – he also spent some time with the top eight in practice Monday and Tuesday – Stiemsma had spent precious little time away from the scout team. Before UW's home loss to Illinois Jan. 25, he impersonated Illini forward James Augustine. Thursday, though, he could just be himself.
"It felt good to be out there and be Greg Stiemsma instead of Illinois," Stiemsma said.
Chappell, a native of New Berlin, Wis., also spent some time with the top eight Thursday, but primarily worked with scout team. The added work with the top unit is significant because it allows the forwards the opportunity to work on mastering Wisconsin's offensive and defensive sets, rather than working as the opponents' personnel.
"When I get in there I'm trying to still pick some things up and trying to use what I've been picking up on the defensive end and when I was on the sidelines too," said Stiemsma, a Randolph, Wis. native. "I learn so much just from seeing things. Now it is just putting into action."
Stiemsma and Chappell each had a taste of the injury bug early in the season. A right foot injury forced Stiemsma to miss about a month of practice and UW's first eight games. Chappell was briefly sidelined with a foot injury at the beginning of formal practices in October and he missed a little more than a week of practice in late November due to an ankle sprain.
"Physically I know I'm definitely caught up but I missed those couple weeks of development," Stiemsma said. "It's been hard to get back to that."
"That's just part of the game," Chappell said. "Some people are going to get hurt. Other people just have to step up. When you get your chance you have to make the most of it."
As Wednesday showed, those opportunities may come in tightly wrapped packages, but there will be chances.
"I'm just glad that I got the opportunity, be it that it may that it was [for] a couple guys going down, which you can't predict either," Stiemsma said. "So, I'm just going to go out there and try and help the team and do what I can do. Try and help us get the win."
Butch has not been around the team since being diagnosed with mono Wednesday morning and will not travel to Illinois. Morley briefly stretched and shot free throws during Thursday's practice. He will be re-evaluated following Friday's evening workout in Champaign, Ill.
Wisconsin/Purdue game time set
Wisconsin's Big Ten regular season finale with Purdue is set for Saturday, March 5 at 1:32 p.m. Central at the Kohl Center. The game will be televised by ESPN Regional.
CBS had the option to pick up the Badgers/Boilermakers game for its March 6 broadcast slate, but chose to select Illinois at Ohio State for its nationally televised Sunday game.