February 23, 2010

Leuer rounding back into form

MADISON - Jon Leuer approached mid-court with a wide smile on his face Sunday afternoon. Seconds later, sophomore teammate Jordan Taylor greeted him with an emphatic high five and a couple of words or encouragement.

The moment came with less than 10 seconds to play in a suddenly close game with Northwestern, immediately after Jason Bohannon reeled in the aftermath of Leuer's blocked shot that thwarted any shot of a Wildcat upset special.

"There is the experience we get back on the floor in those situations," UW head coach Bo Ryan, who played Leuer 22 minutes in his second game back from injury, said. "And that's why he was out there."

Following a poor outing against Minnesota-which comes to be expected in Leuer's first game back after missing five weeks with a broken wrist- where the Badger junior finished with just four points on 2-of-12 shooting, Leuer bounced back against the Wildcats.

He finished the game with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor. He collected four rebounds and redirected three Northwestern shots. The only part of his game that looked off was his free throw shooting where he finished 5-of-8 from the stripe.

"The block was just trying to make up for all those free throws I missed," Leuer said following he game. "I don't know what I was thinking there."

But more so than any shot can help his team, Leuer's presence on the floor, just having him back in the lineup, has helped mold Wisconsin back into a formidable, but balanced offense. It has also helped on the defensive side of the ball because it adds another big body that is more than capable of altering or deflecting shots.

"Even with that tape on his hand," Ryan said. "His hands in the post are the best of all our bigs. He made a couple good catches in there. He made an offensive rebound or two.

"His activity inside, defensively and offensively, was a big factor down the stretch."

Instead of hoisting well over 20, sometimes even 30 3-point shots, and relying on those long distance dial ups to win games, Leuer offers more of an inside ability that can help on the glass and defensively.

At the end of Sunday's game, UW had 20 shots from downtown and 19 from inside the perimeter. A healthy balance that hadn't been seen since Leuer went down with an injury in early January.

"With a guy like Jon, I think the more he gets involved the better the team is going to be," Taylor said. "I think once he gets back into the swing of things I'm sure we'll get better.

"He's doing fine."

Now that Leuer is back and seemingly gaining more comfort, confidence and rhythm, Wisconsin has a chance to get hot at the right time of the season. With only three regular season games remaining, Leuer will have three more opportunities to get back to the way he was playing early in the season before being slapped with a somewhat significant injury.

Should he succeed, UW could be one of the more difficult outs in any postseason tournament it participates in.

"Anytime you've been away from the game for five or six weeks, it's an adjustment coming back," Leuer said. "You kind of have to feel it out. The more experience you get and the more games you get under your belt the easier it becomes anytime you play.

"I'm just taking it day by day right now and just trying to get better to help this team."

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