MADISON - The Badgers have been accustomed to playing the first half of Big Ten Conference games without production from junior Jon Leuer.
Now the Badgers will have to get used to playing without their second-leading scorer for either half for an extended period of time.
Leuer suffered a fractured bone in his left wrist (non-shooting hand) in the first half of Saturday's 73-66 victory over No.4 Purdue and is out indefinitely, according to UW officials.
"We won't approach it any different," UW coach Bo Ryan said during his Monday News Conference.
The injury apparently occurred early in the first half when Leuer tried to brace himself after losing his balance trying to grab an offensive rebound. An x-ray following the game revealed a fracture of a bone in his wrist, prompting Leuer to have surgery this Tuesday.
Leuer went on to play 38 of 40 minutes and although he struggled with his shot, the junior, who had his wrist taped for the second half, grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. No timetable has been set for his return.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed by the injury, but I plan on being as big a part of this team as ever," Leuer said in a university release. "I will continue to be at all the practices and conditioning sessions and support the team as best I can. I'm confident my teammates can continue the great season we've begun and I look forward to rejoining the team."
Added Ryan: "People to continue to perform with that injury because they didn't know. You've probably had some friends that have slipped on the ice, fall, the wrist is sore and all of a sudden it sets in."
Against Ohio State, Leuer spent most of the final 16 minutes of the first half on the bench because of foul trouble, but the Badgers went on a 16-2 run to distance themselves from the Buckeyes. A script was the same against Penn State, as two fouls limited Leuer to only six minutes of first-half action, but UW led by 12 en route to a 17-point victory.
Against the Spartans, Leuer shot just 1-of-7 in the first half and were 0-of-8 in the opening minutes against Purdue.
"They are just going to get out here, practice, go through our possessions and play," Ryan said. "Really in their mind, they are not thinking anything about the unfortunate occurrence. They are just thinking how they are going to get better, how they are going to fit in and what they can learn about the next team we play."
Even so, there's no player on Wisconsin's bench capable of filling Leuer's shoes. His 15.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game will certainly be replaced by a committee approach, much like the Badgers have done in past years when trying to replace departed seniors Alando Tucker, Brian Butch, Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry.
With Leuer out, the likely candidates to get more playing time are redshirt freshman Ryan Evans, freshman Mike Bruesewitz and redshirt freshman Jared Berggren when the Badgers (13-3, 3-1 Big Ten) – ranked No.13 in the AP and No.16 in the Coaches Poll – travel to Northwestern (12-3, 1-2) Wednesday, a team that historically posed problems for first-year players adjusting to the Princeton offense and the 1-3-1 defense.
"Northwestern has been doing so many things in a more athletic way this year," Ryan said. "A few of my buddies said, ‘Hey coach, you are not the 11th athletic team in the league. Northwestern passed you this year.' And they are pretty athletic. They are scoring the ball, getting their looks, dictating.
"When they are on offense, it's just a matter of whether or not the ball is going in, because they are going to get their shots, even better now than in the past. So new guys that haven't seen that, the speed of the cuts, the different actions … in practice we'll have to try and simulate it, but it'll always be different down there."
Evans has been one of the first players off the bench for Wisconsin this season, playing in all 16 games and is averaging 15.6 minutes, 5.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He rebounded from a sluggish performance against Michigan State to score seven points and pull down three rebounds against Purdue.
Bruesewitz has played in 12 games and is averaging only 7.5 minutes per game, but has seen his minutes increase over the last week with UW's post players battling foul trouble. Against Purdue, the true freshman grabbed five rebounds in just six minutes of action, also drawing praise from Ryan after the game for bringing energy and court awareness.
"He's going to be a good player," Ryan said after the game. "He is a good player. In practice, man, he was Hummel and he was knocking down some shots. He played hard and makes some good things happen."
Berggren has been used limitedly this season (11 games, 4.8 minutes per game, 1.5 points) due to his struggles defensively. Against the Spartans, Berggren played only 20 seconds, when Delvon Roe drove right by Berggren to the basket for the lay-up and the foul.
The Badgers will also look to forward Tim Jarmusz (who has missed 13 of his last 14 shots), Keaton Nankivil (single-digit scoring marks in the last five games) and Jordan Taylor (double-digit scoring in four of last six games).
"If I have players that are waiting for something to happen to somebody else to go, ‘All right, now I am really going to be go,' well, why didn't you do that every day in practice?" Ryan questioned. "Why wait? I don't look at things, never had because of the injuries we've had on this team. If I am a player, I am just thinking about one thing, I've got to do this right, that right, rebound, pass and I should be doing that everyday anyhow."
Ryan hasn't met with his team or associate coach Greg Gard, who is responsible for the Northwestern scouting report, since Saturday due to an off day Sunday to determine the fifth starter and isn't leaning any specific way.
"The only leaning thing I can remember is when we were in Italy and that leaning Tower of Pisa and the guys were leaning sideways to make the picture," Ryan said. "I don't know yet."
The good news is that if recent history says anything, Leuer won't be out for too long. Duke's Mason Plumlee fractured his wrist on Nov. 11 and his first game back was Dec. 2 vs. Wisconsin and forward Evan Turner was expected to be out eight weeks after breaking bones in his back Dec. 5, only to return 3 1/2 weeks ahead of schedule.
The Badgers will travel to Columbus this Saturday.