LINCOLN — Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles noticed near the end of Wednesday’s loss at No. 2 Michigan that forward Brandon Ubel kept rubbing and flexing his right elbow.
When Miles inquired about it, Ubel said he thought he had bumped his funny bone.
An MRI exam showed something worse.
A small fracture along the joint line will sideline Ubel for Sunday’s game at No. 22 Michigan State and leaves NU’s acknowledged team leader “highly doubtful” for Wednesday’s game with Purdue.
“It sounds worse than it is, but it’s still bad news,” Miles said Friday. “I don’t know how long he’ll be out. It could be 10 days, it could be 20, it could be 30.”
The injury news on Husker backup point guard Mike Peltz was more definite.
The junior walk-on from Alliance, Neb., will have knee surgery and miss the rest of the season. Peltz, who averaged 15 minutes a game, has played since fall practice with a partially torn patellar tendon.
“Mike felt like the pain was too much,” Miles said. “He wasn’t able to be effective and be the player (he wanted to be) by practicing one-third of practice.”
As for Ubel, the 6-foot-10 senior from Overland Park, Kan., is Nebraska’s No. 3 scorer (12.1 points), top rebounder (6.8) and leading free-throw shooter (79.3 percent).
“He has done a lot of really good things for us,” Miles said. “Almost everything we do is featured around Brandon getting a catch, making a pass, setting a screen or taking a shot.”
But his absence will be felt far beyond the box score.
Miles regularly talks about how players must have a voice on the team and take ownership of the process. Ubel has been the best.
“Brandon talks in a coach’s language and you really appreciate that,” Miles said. “He’s all about the right things, he’s on point, he’s on target and he delivers his message the right way. Not having that certainly hurts us.”
The injury occurred when Ubel took a short jump shot and was bumped by Michigan forward Mitch McGary, causing Ubel’s elbow to nearly hyperextend.
Miles said there hasn’t been much swelling, and the elbow won’t be casted or braced in order to maintain some flexibility. He has been told to shoot very short shots as part of his rehab.
“But it’s hard to get full extension on it right now,” Miles said.
Junior guard Ray Gallegos, Ubel’s best friend on the team and former roommate, called the injury news disappointing.
“We’ve got to get together as a team,” Gallegos said Friday. “He is a big leader — I think the biggest leader on this team as far as vocalizing things and his presence.
“I’m a pretty quiet guy, but I’m going to have to step out of my comfort zone and try to help my teammates that way.”
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