Taylor surging in conference play

The Kansas Jayhawks have opened Big 12 play by making a statement, dispatching Kansas State, Iowa State and, most recently, Baylor en route to a perfect 5-0 record to date. A big part of that success has been the play of senior Tyshawn Taylor, whose back-to-back 28-point efforts have him playing the best basketball of his career.

Such is the polarizing nature of Tyshawn Taylor that fans and media members alike have begun to separate him into two distinct entities when discussing his play on the court.

There's "Bad Tyshawn," who is careless with the basketball and with his thoughts in the aftermath of a rocky performance, voicing his frustration via social networking channels.

And then there's "Good Tyshawn," who is…well…nothing short of brilliant. In recent back-to-back victories over Iowa State and Baylor, Good Tyshawn scored 28 points. He shot better than 55-percent from the floor, dished out 12 assists and collected five steals. On Jan. 16, the Big 12 Conference named him their co-Player of the Week, along with Baylor's Perry Jones III.

It's all relative, of course, and really nothing more than an easy way for Jayhawk Nation to compartmentalize their thoughts and feelings when Taylor is on the floor. Because the reality is even when he's having an off night, or even a series of off nights, he's still one of the most athletic guards in the country. He's still capable of things few players in American can achieve. He's still the starting point guard at Kansas.

So the notion of a "bad" Tyshawn Taylor is both overblown and an oversimplification. Is he inconsistent? Sure, and Head Coach Bill Self is one of the first to say so.

"I said (Jan. 3) he makes plays you can't coach," Self has said. "And he makes plays that look like he's never been coached."

Case in point, the Jan. 4 Big 12 opener versus Kansas State.

In 35 minutes, Taylor scored 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting. He doled out three assists and turned it over a whopping eight times.

But with the final seconds ticking off the clock in the first half, he turned himself into a blur, leaving a vapor trail in his wake and defenders looking helpless on the way to the hoop for a buzzer-beating basket.

It was enough to make every single one of the 16,000 and change crammed into the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse gasp in surprised delight.

"The play he made before halftime," Self said, in the aftermath of the 67-49 victory. "Guys, there's not five players in America who can make that play. I mean, that was unbelievable."

Prior to the start of conference play, it's fair to say Taylor had been a mixed bag. There were some highs, definitely. He scored 22 points in the early-season loss to Kentucky, and then followed that performance up with 16 versus Georgetown and 13 versus UCLA in the first two rounds of the EA Sports Maui Invitational in late November.

But the lows have been there as well. In a highly-touted match-up with Duke in the finals of the Maui event, Taylor scored 17 points but turned it over 11 times to just four assists. In the Jayhawks' next primetime matchup, Dec. 10 versus Ohio State, he scored just nine points and turned it over seven times – though he did have 13 assists.

Ball security has been a problem for Taylor all season long, and even Self is at a loss to explain its genesis. The lapses just seem to happen.

And though the turnovers aren't being taken lightly – the senior point guard has said repeatedly they are a constant area of focus for him – it's just that, with Taylor, one has no choice but to take the good with the bad.

And the good isn't merely good. It's great. As in "one of the best guards in the country" great.

His ascendance began during the second half of the Jan. 14 victory over Iowa State. Down double-digits at one point in the second half to the resurgent Cyclones, the Jayhawks needed a spark – and Taylor answered the call.

He scored 22 (28 total) points after intermission, dished out six total assists and canned a trio of three-point buckets to help push Kansas to an 83-72 victory.

"I felt good," Taylor said, afterward. "I felt like I was playing good. I felt like my team was counting on me and I stepped up."

"I heard my bench going crazy the entire time," he added. "The crowd was going crazy. It was just one of those feelings you get when you're playing good and you know that the fans and your teammates are with you."

The 28 points represented a career high for Taylor, and provided him an emotional boost heading into the Jan. 16 "Big Monday" matchup with No. 3 Baylor, televised nationally on ESPN.

The question for fans was, how would he handle the combination of recent success and bright lights? Some of his most inconsistent moments thus far had come during a couple of the biggest games of the season.

They need not have worried. Taylor was, once again, spectacular. Truth be told, the entire team turned in a stellar performance in arguably their biggest game to date, but Robinson and Taylor's stars shone the brightest in the 92-74 victory.

Taylor led the team in scoring, tying his career high with another 28-point outing, and assists, with six. Additionally, his defense held hyped Bears guard Pierre Jackson to just 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting in 33 minutes of play.

Though Taylor May get a bit erratic at times, his coach wants him constantly in attack mode. Those back-to-back performances are a testament as to why that is the case.

To his credit, Taylor understands that when he's aggressive is when he's at his best.

"I definitely want to go out there and be a threat, because I don't want to feel like I am just another player on the court," he said. "I want the defender that is guarding me to feel like when I have the ball that I can make something happen."

If this is a sign of things to come from the senior guard, as he enters the twilight of his collegiate career…

The Kansas Jayhawks just became awfully tough to beat.

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