Smith, a walk-on from Milwaukee, has been chasing, defending and grinding against the third-year player from Bloomington, Minn., his entire career. What he's seen is what everyone else across the college basketball landscape is seeing: major confidence.
"He's getting more confident with his shot and it's getting harder to guard him in practice," Smith said. "That's what he's showing against all the Big Ten guards. He's holding his own … and you can tell his confidence is there."
In a game with six lead changes and three ties, far and away more competitive than onlookers predicted before tip-off, it was that Taylor confidence that helped him make key plays at key moments to help No.18 Wisconsin starve off Indiana, 69-60, Thursday night by scoring a career-high 28 points.
Taylor added that it was a team effort for Wisconsin (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten) to overcome a Hoosiers' team that finished the game shooting 51 percent. But when Indiana (10-9, 1-5) was nailing jump shot after jump shots, UW figured the best way to fight fire was with their own fire of Taylor.
After Taylor drove into the lane, made the bucket and drew the foul (one of the five old fashioned three-point plays UW executed in the second half) to put UW ahead for good, he waited only 90 seconds before taking over for good.
After Verdell Jones' jumper cut the lead the 52-50, Taylor scored six straight UW points over a two-minute span, boosting the lead to 58-52 and keeping it a two-possession game for the duration.
Taylor's 28 points give him four straight games with 20+ points and ninth overall. The three games previous to that stretch saw the junior score 19, 22, 19. He also added eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and just one turnover in 39 minutes.
"He's not only one of the premier guards in the league, that's obvious, he's one of the premier guards in the country," Indiana Coach Tom Crean said. "That's not because he played well tonight. He's an outstanding player. He's got all three faucets of the offense when it comes to scoring: he can get to the rim with anybody, he's got a great shot fake and certainly the 3-point game.
"He's a cut above. No question."
As key as he was late, Taylor was one of the few players to keep pace with an Indiana squad that seemingly couldn't miss in the opening 20 minutes. Wisconsin shot 52 percent in the first half, but trailed for just the 30th time in 158 home games under Ryan.
Indiana shot 60.9 percent (14-for-23), turned the ball over just three times and got production from six different sources.
Taylor shoot 7-for-8 from the floor scored 17 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer with five seconds left to help UW stay within four points.
"I felt like it was a good look and I was fortunate for it to go down," Taylor said.
In one 50-second answer, head coach Bo Ryan mentioned three times that the key to victory when the Hoosiers went up eight early was his team simply ‘staying the course.' Thanks to his junior point guard, Wisconsin keeps finding ways to win games.
"He's a bright young man that takes advantages of the opportunities that are presented to him," Ryan said. "As people are finding out, he's a pretty good player, and he's been instrumental in putting us in the position we are in now."