Taylor Drops The Hammer

Shaking off a rough first half, junior point guard Jordan Taylor took command after halftime, scoring 17 of his game-high 20 in the second half, including three big three-pointers out of the gate, to erase a deficit and help Wisconsin knock off Michigan, 66-50, Wednesday.

MADISON – The youngest team in the Big Ten jogged into the visiting locker room with a two-point lead, only to appear hesitant coming out of the locker room to begin the second half. They obviously knew what was coming, and Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan knew he didn't need to say anything to junior guard Jordan Taylor to get him going.

"I might even get a raise, too, if I said, ‘Yeah, I did,'" joked Ryan.

After a personally frustrating 20 minutes, Taylor found his groove, scoring 17 of his game-high 20 points as Wisconsin used the long ball to push past Michigan, 66-50, Wednesday night.

Down 28-26 at halftime, the first time UW trailed at halftime in a home game all season, six of the Badgers first seven second-half shots were three-point attempts. After five found the bottom of the net, UW gained a five-point edge, as Taylor's production seemed to ignite the crowd.

Taylor buried consecutive three-pointers to pull UW (12-3, 2-1 Big Ten) within 33-32 and after Keaton Nankivil hit a three to give UW its first lead since 6-4, Taylor buried his third triple of the half to push the lead to 38-33 and force Michigan to burn a timeout.

"Jordan Taylor was terrific in the second half," Michigan Coach John Beilein said. "It wasn't anything schematic that we did offensively in the first half to hold him back, he just didn't shoot the ball as much, and he was very unselfish."

Consider it coincidence then that Taylor attempted more shots (5) in the first 5 minutes, 15 seconds than he did the entire first half. Taylor added eight rebounds, three assists and made all six of his foul shots in the final seven minutes to make sure the Wolverines got no closer than six the rest of the way.

"Things just came to me a little bit," Taylor said. "I was trying to be patient and let the game come to me. When you start to force things, which I have done at times, it kind of ends up bad."

Things were easy for Taylor, especially with the contributions his team was getting from senior post players Jon Leuer and Nankivil. Leuer, who came in averaging 15.7 points in three previous games against Michigan, scored 17 and Nankivil added 13, nine of which came during a 10-minute stretch between halves where UW took control.

"If I get one point and we win by 20, I really don't care," Taylor said. "I'm just trying to take what comes to me."

Just as important as Taylor's contribution, Wisconsin continued to utilize its new three-point reputation to springboard them right back into the thick of things. Three days after shooting 10-for-35 (28.6 percent) in an eight-point loss at Illinois, the Badgers' three-point marksmanship was a necessary asset at the start of the second half, as UW finished 9-for-19 (47.4 percent) from three-point range and 6-for-12 (50 percent) after halftime.

"That's how we've beaten several teams," said Ryan, as the Badgers engineered a 13-0 run early in the second half to start building their insurmountable lead.

Things would have been worse for Michigan (11-4, 1-2) if junior Zack Novak lost his shooting touch, who at one point scored 12 of the Wolverines' 14 points, all from three-point range, over a 14 minute, 23 second span.

But once the Wolverines got some help – a pair of free throws by Darius Morris and a three-pointer by Matt Vogrich – to cut the lead to four, Wisconsin put it away a 6-0 run to push the lead to double digits with five minutes remaining.

Novak led Michigan with 15 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 10 despite being 3-for-10 shooting. Morris, who entered the night second in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.03), was held to eight points, three assists and four turnovers.

"We just couldn't get it to that point where you can get back and make it a one or two possession game," Beilein said. "From there, the lights are out … because they aren't going to miss any foul shots and they are not going to turn the ball over."

After missing both meetings last season with a broken wrist, Leuer picked up right where he left off against Beilein's group, scored 11 of UW's first 12 points. It was a good thing, too, seeing as no other Badger made a field goal until Mike Bruesewitz's leaner from the post at 7:35, as Michigan led by as many as six in the first half.

The leaner from Bruesewitz was a transition point for Wisconsin's offense, which slopped through a six-turnover first half, four of which were committed by Leuer. Wisconsin pounded the paint, scoring 14 points under the basket in the first half, but it was Nankivil nailing back-to-back triples to tie the game at 22 that ultimately jump started the offense.

"We hung tough, we got them to miss some shots while we were scoring, and it's tough playing from behind, especially on the road," Ryan said.

Just as vital as UW's big three were, the ‘supporting cast' were part of the tipping point, as Bruesewitz added six points, Tim Jarmusz added four assists and was often on the floor diving for loose balls and senior walk-on Brett Valentyn added four points in a season-high 11 minutes.

"You can always count on those guys," Taylor said. "They are great teammates, hustling at all times and they can bail you out."

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