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February 6, 2011

Taylor dominates as UW cruises

MADISON - Jordan Taylor guesstimated 15 or 20 of Wisconsin's 39 shots were hotly contested during the Badgers 82-56 shellacking of Michigan State Sunday afternoon.

His head coach would probably beg to differ.

"Michigan State was guarding the heck out of us," Bo Ryan, who improved his home Big Ten record to 75-6 with the win, said. "They were doing all the right things, taking away some cuts and were doing what they needed to be doing. We hit some tough shots. It was very difficult to get a good look at the basket.

"Lets be honest. I don't know if you want to rely on a couple of those shots that we made all the time."

What's becoming more than obvious, though, is the fact that Ryan's Badgers can rely on their junior point guard. As Tom Izzo put it, if he's not already in the discussion for Big Ten Player of the Year he definitely will be.

Taylor shot 9-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-4 from distance en route to scoring a season high 30 points. He also dished six assists and committed only one turnover.

But that's a non-story.

"Jordan Taylor was unbelievable today," Izzo, who has never beat a Ryan coached team inside the Kohl Center, said. "That's one of the great performances I've seen. He made nine shots and three 3s and I thought every one of them was a tough shot. I know he's really improved his game, but that was another level.

"He just dominated the game."

Though he was the brightest star inside a rowdy Kohl Center, he wasn't alone. Both Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil logged double-digit scoring efforts. Nankivil sparked UW with a couple of quick 3s to start the game and then Leuer and Taylor took control of the reigns.

The Badger jumped out to a quick 27-13 lead to start the affair and eventually pushed the margin to 18 by the break.

Shooting over 65 percent from the field will help that.

"I don't know how to say it any better other than I really think you've got to give Wisconsin the credit on their shooting today," Izzo said. "If they shoot like that they'll win the national championship and I really mean that.

"I thought they were that impressive shooting the ball."

In a game that was never really in contention for a severely struggling Michigan State squad, there was one bright spot. Kalin Lucas, whom Izzo said played one of his best games of the season, scord 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

But that wasn't nearly enough to keep Taylor from doing his thing. It seemed every time the Badgers needed a bucket late in the shot clock it was time for Taylor to take over.

He didn't disappoint.

"We all knew it was going to be a tough game and that we were going to have to work on offense a little bit," Taylor said. "I guess when the shot clock gets down it makes it easy when you've got guys like Keaton and Jon as well Tim Jarmusz and Josh Gasser who were making shots today, too. They can spread out the defense. You've got to try to make a play.

"I've got confidence in my teammates and I think they've got confidence in me."

The Badgers continued to roll throughout the second half as they never let the Spartans get within 20. UW eventually finished with eight different scorers, but only four were needed in the first half.

Taylor and Leuer were that dynamic.

"When they say [Taylor] is the straw that stirs the drink he is the straw that stirs the drink," Izzo said. "He has definitely made them a better team and I told him that after the game. I think he's improved as much as anybody I've seen. I think he played like one of the best guards in the country, not just the Big Ten today.

"His strength, his demeanor, I was very, very impressed."

In scoring 30 points, Taylor became the first Badger player to do so since Jason Bohannon scored the same amount in a win over Indiana nearly one year ago. He set a team season high and upped his average to 20.7 points per game in conference play.

Izzo said Taylor deserves to be one of the players involved in conference player of the year talk. The Badgers head coach took a more modest approach.

"He's been doing just fine without us talking about it," Ryan, in regards to his point guard that is shooting 46 percent from the field in league play, said. "If you're good other people will take notice. There were so many seniors that were back that got the early attention. Then you had a freshman that starts dominating early. It's basically been Sullinger and the seniors. It sounds like a singing group. So that's okay.

"With Jordan, it's not even brought up in a conversation. Jordan just keeps working and shows up every day the same way."

No hard feelings:

If you remember the infamous Devin Harris to Alando Tucker alley-oop from a number of years ago inside the Breslin Center that put a stamp on a UW win you'll remember that it didn't sit well with coach Izzo.

Fast forward a number of years to Sunday afternoon and that situation was brought up yet again. With the team up 79-56 in the waning moments of the game, freshman Ben Brust was stuck in a tough spot.

The shot clock was literally tenths of a second ahead of the regulation clock so he needed to shoot to avoid a turnover. So he hoisted a 3 ball from the corner and drilled it. According to Izzo, that didn't ruffle any feathers.

"As you know Bo and I had our moments way back 11 years ago," Izzo said. "That hasn't been the case the last seven or eight years to be honest with you. I was more disappointed in our guys. You try to set some goals when it's late and you didn't want them to make another three. I saw the poor point guard asking what do you do. Do you just let the ball go? When you're in a case like that, to me, it's a bit different than a breakaway dunk with a star.

"Here's a poor kid that deserves to take a shot. I don't know how much he's played, but by the crowd reaction and the bench reaction who knows? Maybe that's a highlight of his year. To be honest with you, not this time at all because of the situation. I didn't even think twice about it to be honest."

Game notes:

-Wisconsin moves to 13-0 at the Kohl Center this season, winning by more than 20 points on average.

-UW's 26-point win over MSU was its largest win over the Spartans since beating them by 25 (87-62) in February of 1994. UW's all-time largest margin over MSU was set in February of 1972 when it was 101-74.

-The Badgers set a Kohl Center record by hitting 25-of-26 shots from the free throw line.

-UW's 64.7 percent clip from distance set a season-high for 3-point field goal percentage in a game.

-With both Taylor and Leuer reaching the 20-point milestone in Sunday's win, UW had two players reach the mark for the sixth time this season during the same game.

Quotable:

Tom Izzo on his team's effort:

"Honest to God, the guys did everything I asked them to do. They were coachable in the huddles. We made some mistakes, but their shots were bouncing in. The Badger gods, hopefully they're with the Packers today like they were with Wisconsin, because those shots kept going in. I thought our effort was 10 times what it was at Iowa, which means Wisconsin's awfully good."

Jordan Taylor and his Super Bowl 45 prediction:

"I'm going to stay away from that one. Last time you got me into some trouble. So I'm just going to…. But black and yellow."


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