Learning from the Bump in the Road

Despite his advanced performance, Jordan Taylor joined his predecessors as junior point guards that experienced an East Lansing disaster. If the script continues, Taylor's game is about to elevate to another level.

MADISON - The Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State has a funny way of humbling junior point guards.

Kammron Taylor was brought to tears after his 4-for-18 performance couldn't give All-American candidate Alando Tucker any help a nine-point 2006 loss. Trevon Hughes barely acknowledged questions after his 3-for-10 shooting and four turnovers were key in a crushing 11-point loss in'08.

Add Jordan Taylor to that most unfortunate list.

Taylor didn't play bad Tuesday night against the Spartans. He led No.20 Wisconsin with 21 points and held his opposition – senior point guard and the conference's preseason player of the year Kalin Lucas – to only 4-for-17 shooting.

Still, Taylor made only 8 of 20 shots, including missing the final two in overtime that sealed the Badgers nine-point collapse in the final three minutes in regulation that led to their 64-61 loss.

"I relaxed more than anything," Taylor said Thursday. "We were up nine and felt we went into coast mode a little bit. I felt like we had the game in hand, which we did, and I forgot the part where we have to see it all the way through."

It was one of the more painful experiences the Badgers have dealt with, losing their second game of the season when leading with four minutes left in the second half, but one Taylor took full responsibility for. He showed no emotion other than disappointment with himself for letting his team close regulation with five empty possessions and vowed it wouldn't happen again.

"It was pretty impressive," said Assistant Coach Gary Close of Taylor's post-game demeanor. "It wasn't surprising, but impressive, and why he's such a great leader. He's willing to stick his neck out and take the good with the bad. It's why he's going to keep getting better and better, and you could tell it was disappointing because it was so close. As a guard, you feel like when you are in that position, you have to make enough plays to get the job done."

For the most part, Taylor has made the plays to push Wisconsin. Through 16 games in his third season, Taylor is averaging 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Taylor also ranks seventh in the Big Ten in scoring and second in free throw percentage at 86.5 percent.

Just as eye catching, Taylor leads the nation with a 3.95 assist-to-turnover ratio, dishing 75 assists to just 19 turnovers. He has 18 assists to four turnovers in Big Ten play.

"He's improved his shooting ability all the way out to the three-point line," Close said. "Any guy can score, but (Taylor has) some variety to his game because he's basically scoring in all different ways."

Taylor has posted seven games with 20 points or more and has scored at least 19 points in five straight contests, a reason he was named among the 20 finalists for the 2011 Bob Cousy Award, presented annually to college basketball's top point guard.

Taylor's rise has been quicker than the two Breslin predecessors. He first made his mark with his freshman year, playing at least 15 minutes 10 times after he hit a half court three-pointer to send a game to overtime at Iowa, and continued last season when his sound fundamentals and his play-making abilities made it impossible to keep him off the court, a reason he started the final 17 games.

"My teammates have confidence in me and we have confidence in each other from one down to 17," Taylor said. "Once you start making shots, all it takes is one play on either end to get your confidence up. You keep building from there and if you make a mistake, keep moving forward."

The chance to improve from his first mistake comes Saturday when the Badgers finish their regular season series against No.16 Illinois at the Kohl Center. When the two teams met Jan.2, Taylor scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half, but missed 10 shots (6 of 16) and saw his responsibility – senior guard Demetri McCamey - score 17 of his 21 points in the second half largely against Taylor.

"McCamey brings out the best in you," Taylor said. "He's a nightmare to guard. He's quick, he's fast and he's strong. Everybody is going to hit their rough patches, but the most important thing is staying confident, no matter what happens."

The confidence hasn't wavered for Taylor over the past 48-plus hours, even after he dissected the final three minutes and every other possession where he felt he could have done something different to better benefit his team.

After their Breslin meltdowns, both juniors recovered. Kam Taylor averaged 13.3 points per game his senior year – second best on the squad – while Hughes' 15.3 points were a team best, both being the engineer that led Wisconsin to the NCAA Tournament.

Don't expect Jordan Taylor to be any different.

"He's a quick learner," Close said. "He doesn't make the same mistake very often, not that he made a whole lot of mistakes that game. There might have been some other things he could have done that could have sealed the deal on both ends of the court that didn't get done. That's refreshing as a coach to see because you know he's going to improve."

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