Badgers Struggle Without Leuer

Jim OxleyContributor IJanuary 29, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 13:  Jon Leuer #30 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second round of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 13, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Despite a career high scoring performance of 25 points from Keaton Nankivil, who went seven for eight from behind the arc, the Badgers fell to the Purdue Boilermakers last night.

The Badgers seemed to be a little out of sync, and Purdue was able to control the pace for most of the game. A last second shot by Trevon Hughes was a little hard off the backboard and the Badgers went home with a three-point loss.

Since losing Jon Leuer to a wrist injury in the Northwestern game, the Badgers have gone 2-2, losing away games at Ohio State and Purdue while winning at home against Michigan and Penn State.  In the past three games the Badgers have surrendered leads early and have been forced to play from behind for the majority of the game, a trait not common for Bo Ryan's Wisconsin teams.

Although the Badgers were able to rally past Michigan and Penn State with the help of Rob Wilson's second half 13-point outburst against the Wolverines and Jordan Taylor's complete takeover of the final minutes of the Penn State game, their luck ran out last night against the Boilermakers.

The lack of an inside scoring threat once given by Leuer has led teams to guard the Badgers in a similar way: force them to shoot threes, which the Badgers have done, however unsuccessfully. In the past four games the Badgers have shot a collective 106 three pointers, making just 32. While 30 percent isn't terrible for a team's three point percentage, when it's the only offense generated it can become a problem.

One bright spot coming from Leuer's injury is the emergence of young players such as Jordan Taylor, Rob Wilson, and Ryan Evans. With Leuer out of the starting lineup, Taylor has stepped up to show that his rookie season was only a preview of what's to come.

Taylor was second in the NCAA with a 3.83 assist to turnover ratio going into this week's games. He has improved that ratio to 3.9 this week. He also had a 20 point performance against Penn State, which included 18 of the final 20 points the Badgers scored. Taylor isn't the only youngster to step up. Rob Wilson has proven he can shoot the ball as well as play solid defense. Ryan Evans has given the Badgers some extra athleticism on both sides of the ball.

The pieces are present for the Badgers to cause some damage in the conference should Leuer be able to return to his pre-injury form. With or without Leuer, the Badgers cannot continue to play from behind game after game. As we saw last night, the comeback isn't always possible.