Henson: Despite Taylor’s off night, UW finds way to advance

Henson: Despite Taylor’s off night, UW finds way to advance

September 16, 2020 eokpgjcq 0

first_imgAfter carrying the Badgers – singlehandedly at times – throughout the season, Jordan Taylor struggled for almost the entire 40 minutes against Kansas State Saturday in the third round of the NCAA tournament.The junior point guard and first-team All Big Ten selection was a miserable 2-for-16 from the field. The Wildcats were intent on frustrating Taylor. He forced shots and never found any semblance of rhythm.And the Big Ten all-defensive team member struggled on that end as well, as KSU point guard Jacob Pullen poured in 38 points. Pullen had his way, connecting from distance and finding open looks in the lane with relative ease. In the highly anticipated matchup of point men, Taylor appeared overmatched.But with the Badgers leading 66-65, there were 10 seconds left for Taylor to make a positive impact.Somehow, UW stayed in the game and actually led by one with seconds remaining, despite Taylor’s ice-cold night.Anyone who has watched this Wisconsin team all year would have a hard time believing UW could hold a lead over KSU on a neutral floor with Taylor converting just two field goals.Taylor makes this team go. He’s the catalyst, the floor general, the Badgers’ go-to scorer.So with Taylor struggling, UW needed big-time contributions from the supporting cast to keep its season alive. Star forward Jon Leuer got his usual 19 points in another stellar outing, but UW needed the role players to raise their level to beat Pullen and the Wildcats.The script had been flipped.Taylor’s teammates needed to carry him.So they did.Everyone’s favorite punching bag – senior Tim Jarmusz – hit two threes and finished with eight points. He also chipped in three assists and had a critical steal late.The hot-and-cold freshman Josh Gasser played with confidence and a willingness to attack after scoring one point against Belmont. Gasser finished with 11 points and tied Leuer for a team-high seven rebounds to go along with two steals.And of course Mike Bruesewitz – the sophomore forward with the battered knee and trademark red hair – energized his teammates with an inspired effort. It was Bruesewitz who hit the biggest shot of the game, drilling an open three to give UW a 64-61 lead with 1:31 remaining.“Just go right down the line of guys stepping up and making key contributions,” Leuer told reporters after the game. “That’s what you need in March if you want to keep playing.”Those contributions allowed Wisconsin to grab that late lead, but moments later, with KSU now down 66-63, Taylor committed a shooting foul on Pullen and sent the Wildcats’ all-time leading scorer to the line for three free throws.That brings us back to those critical final 10 seconds. The moment where Taylor would shine. Pullen made 2-of-3 at the line. Taylor was immediately fouled with UW up by one.All the pressure was now firmly resting on the shoulders of the UW point guard. Taylor has thrived in that role all season, but this was an atypically poor outing for the junior. He’d only made two shots. Now, he needed to make two more at the stripe with Wisconsin’s tournament life hanging in balance.But Taylor is known for his ability to stay cool and collected as much as anything. He’s never too high, never too low. He’s able to keep his emotions and frustrations in check when he needs to.He comfortably nailed both free throws.Down three, Pullen tried to get off a potentially game-tying three with two seconds left, but this time Taylor had it covered.Taylor rose up and blocked Pullen’s attempt, effectively sealing the victory.Turns out 10 seconds was plenty of time for the Badgers’ leader to respond when it mattered most.And no matter the shooting struggles, that didn’t come as a surprise to head coach Bo Ryan.“He was having a rough night scoring, but he is a taskmaster of his own skills and his own abilities that he’s not going to throw the rest of it away simply because things have gotten away from him,” Ryan told reporters after the game. “Because he is that dedicated to being the leader on this team on the floor. He never wavered from that the whole time.”In a matchup of two highly skilled point guards, Pullen dominated the game with his 38 points.But Taylor got more help from his supporting cast, and with it, the Badgers’ floor general closed out a victory and left Tucson, Ariz., with a smile on his face. It’s Taylor’s team that’s still dancing.“He [Pullen] was the best player on the floor tonight,” Taylor told reporters after the game. “But we’re moving on and going to New Orleans. So that’s all that matters.”That couldn’t be more spot on.Max is a senior majoring in journalism. Shocked the Badgers pulled out a victory despite Taylor’s struggles? Pumped for the Sweet Sixteen? Let him know at [email protected]last_img

 

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