Taylor-Made Defense

Bill Self has been looking for a lockdown defender this season. After KU's 87-60 victory over Kent State Monday night, he may have found one.

Freshman Tyshawn Taylor was brilliant defensively, containing star guard Al Fisher to just five points on 2 of 11 shooting. Fisher, who entered the game averaging 21.8 points, didn’t score until 1:36 left in the first half.

“Coach told me he was a real good player,” Taylor said. “I watched tape on him. I knew he was going to come out and look to score. I felt like I got into him real early and took him out out his groove and he never got into it. ...  He can score in bunches (Fisher scored 27 of Kent State’s final 28 points in the Golden Flashes’ overtime victory against St. Louis on Nov. 19), and I feel I did a good job of holding him and my coaches told me I did a really good job on him.”

“The five points he had, I fell asleep on those two buckets,” Taylor added. “He could have finished with zero, but five is good.”

Taylor also sparked KU on offense, despite missing some easy layups (and a dunk) and shooting just 5 of 14 from the field. With Kansas leading 15-12 at the 12:44 mark in the first half, Taylor hit a three-pointer which started a 14-2 run. He also had two steals, an assist and a layup during that stretch.

In the second half, Taylor knocked down a three-pointer when Kent State crept back in the game and cut KU’s lead to 49-38. KU went on a 9-0 run.

“I just felt really good,” Taylor said. “I missed a bunch of layups, but I was 2 of 2 from (the) three-point line. That’s something I’ve been working on a lot. I guess I got to start working on my layups more.

“We just brought energy. Coach told us to pressure them (in the first half) and we started pressuring and they started to turn it over. We did some good things on the defensive end. I think our defensive pressure led to points.” (KU had 31 points off turnovers and 10 fastbreak points.)

“I got a lot of easy points off my defense,” Taylor added.

So can Taylor become KU’s defensive stopper?

“I think so, because (Self) wants to rest Sherron,” Taylor replied. “The best guards, he’s going to put me on them and I can save Sherron for offense. Whatever I can do to make the team better, I’m going to do it.”

Self was certainly pleased with Taylor’s defense against Fisher.

“I thought Tyshawn did a great job on him,” Self said. “I’m still not convinced he’s a lockdown defender, but he’s moving in that direction of convincing me of that. I see a guy who’s 6-3, he’s long, he can slide, he’s quick as a cat, and he has good hands. There’s no reason why if he learns positioning and has toughness, that he can’t be a good defender.”

Self loves that Taylor is embracing his role on defense.

“So far, he’s handled it great. He played for arguably the best basketball coach in America (at) any level,” Self said of Bob Hurley, Taylor’s legendary prep coach at St. Anthony High School in New Jersey.

“So he knows how important it is. He gets it. He’s a prepared guy. He’s not perfect defensively, but he’s pretty prepared because of the program he came (from).”

Taylor said he became “more of a defensive stopper” late in his high school career when his coaches “told me my length was a good part of guarding guards.”

He’s now ready to take his defense to the next level and become KU’s lockdown defender.

“I like taking the challenge,” Taylor said. “If coach wants me to guard the best player on the other team, that’s what I’m going to do.”

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