A Shot in the Arm

Expected to contribute sparingly this season with the depth at the post position, freshman Jared Berggren was making steady progress adjusting to the speed of the game. With junior Jon Leuer sidelined and No.18 Wisconsin hosting Penn State Sunday, the Badgers are hoping Berggren gets his confidence up to a level where he can contribute.

MADISON - It happened like a flash to freshman Jared Berggren.

Playing in his second career Big Ten game, Berggren entered the game against No.10 Michigan State with 8 minutes, 8 seconds remaining and matched up in the paint against the Spartans athletic sophomore Delvon Roe.

Twenty-two seconds after entering, Roe caught the flat-footed Berggren off guard and drove right by him to the hoop. Seeing he was beat, Berggren was forced to foul but Roe was too strong to the hoop, making the lay-up and eventually converting on the three-point play. Berggren was replaced and didn't see the floor again.

"If you can't stop it, you need to watch it," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "That's what he's working on. He's working on his feet."

The adjustment from Berggren from scout team player to vital contributor was supposed to be a slow process, where the highly-rated freshman from Princeton, Minnesota, would be able to watch and study under fellow Minnesotan Jon Leuer and assume the role his junior year.

With Leuer now sidelined indefinitely due to a wrist injury, the sudden jolt into the rotation has caused Berggren to struggle with the increase responsibilities. In the three games since Leuer was sidelined, Berggren has played in one (six minuets) at Ohio State and the Badgers have struggled without a post presence, forcing them to alter their offense.

Consider the facts. With Leuer in the lineup for UW's first 16 games, 35.9 percent of its field-goal attempts came from three-point range (303 of 843) and the Badgers hit 35.6 percent of those attempts (108 for 303) and shot 46 percent overall (388 for 843).

With UW's second-leading scorer out of the lineup, 50 percent of its attempts have come from three-point range (76-of-152). It wouldn't be a big deal should the Badgers being making their attempts, but UW has made only 30.3 percent of its attempts (20-of-66) and shot 37.5 percent (57 for 152).

Even more eye opening is Wisconsin has gotten 63 percent of its points (104-of -65) from its three starting guards (Jason Bohannon, Trevon Hughes and Jordan Taylor) during that time span.

"We need to have more post presence if we're going to be successful," associate head coach Greg Gard said. "It can be anybody, from a guard driving into the paint or someone posting up a defender. If you tough the post on every possession, you're going to get, more times than not, good quality shots."

After being a dominant post player in high school (averaging 25.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.6 blocks as a senior) Berggren has yet to attempt a shot or pull down a rebound in six conference games, averaging just 2.3 minutes in those affairs.

"I haven't contributed as much as I think I am capable of," Berggren said. "I need to step up now and show that I can do some good things and expand my role. I think getting a little more time, not worried about making mistakes and playing aggressively will help my confidence behind me and get me a little more comfortable out there."

If given the chance, Berggren could get a big dose of confidence when No.18 Wisconsin (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten) looks for a season sweep over Penn State (8-10, 0-6) on Sunday. The Nittany Lions – losers of six straight – have no player rank in the top ten in the conference in rebounding, field goal percentage, steals or blocked shots.

After junior Talor Battle's 18.6 points per game, no Nittany Lions average over eight points per game, a main reason PSU ranked 10th in scoring offense, averaging 65.9 per game.

"It's time for the young guys (like Jared) to come in, fill those roles and an opportunity to show (coach) what they got," Hughes said. "The best thing is to come out and play really well to make it hard for Jon to get his spot back."

With Leuer expected to miss at least three more weeks, including UW's upcoming road match-up with Purdue and subsequent home game against Michigan State, the Badgers will still be counting on Berggren and others to pick up the slack.

"I think this is a great opportunity for myself with Jon being out," Berggren said. "It's unfortunate for the team, but everybody has to step up and improve and expand their role. Hopefully I can contribute positive things and when Jon gets back, we'll be that much better."

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