A Shot in the Arrm

No.14 Wisconsin has seen a dip in its offensive production from where it was after 11 games a season ago, but the Badgers are winning games because their streaky shooting guards are finding other ways to contribute.

MADISON - Every time All-American Jordan Taylor attempts a shot, no matter the degree of difficulty, Wisconsin's senior point guard is confident that his attempt has a high percentage of going in. If he didn't, that would be a whole other issue.

"I think you could almost call that point shaving if you're throwing up shots that you don't think are going in," Taylor said. "The key is to always have confidence."

That's why Taylor never hesitated or thought about his shooting performance when he unleashed a three-pointer from the top of point against Milwaukee Tuesday. In the previous four game, Taylor made just 4 of 23 three-pointers (17.4 percent) and 15 of 52 field-goal attempts overall (28.8 percent), not to mention missing 4 of his first 13 attempts against the Panthers.

It was just instinct that when guard Ryan Allen backed off slightly, Taylor squared and drilled a three-pointer with 40.8 seconds left to give UW a 58-52 lead in a 60-54 victory.

Taylor's numbers are down through 11 games compared to a season ago (points 15.1 to 11.8, field goal percentage .440 to .360, three-point field goal percentage .395 to .326 and free throw percentage .867 to .694) but he isn't the only one going through the shooting ebbs and flows this season.

Sophomore guard Josh Gasser made 14 of his first 17 three-pointers, but is just 3-of-11 in his last six games. Fellow sophomore Ben Brust made eight straight three-pointers over the UNLV and Milwaukee game, but missed his last eight shots Tuesday against the Panthers.

"Honestly, the next shot I got at Milwaukee I felt was going in," said Brust, who also attributes the success to UW allowing just 45.7 points per game. "It's not just about the shooting. Regardless if it's going in or not, there is so much more you can do to help the team to make a balanced, steady flow." Overall Wisconsin is shooting 9.9 percentage points less from the field, 11.6 percentage points less from the free throw line and scoring 3.3 fewer points than this point a year, but both teams had exact 9-2 records and this year's team is ranked No.14 in the country heading into tonight's matchup with Savannah State (4-7) while last year's squad was unranked.

"It's a long season and things aren't going to go your way the whole time, so you just have to grind out games and find different ways to win," said Gasser. "We've done that the past couple games with our shooting not being great. We have a mindset that when we aren't shooting well, you have to find other ways."

That point was emphasized by Gasser and Brust against the Panthers, as the duo scored just a combined five points by had a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and caused enough disruption to help Taylor on his three-point dagger.

Wanting to clear the lane to set up Taylor to drive into the paint, pass or shoot a jump shot, both sophomores made a hard cut underneath the basket, causing the defense to chase and take away some of the help defense, which forced Allen to sag slightly in order to provide support. As a result, Taylor made what Gasser called ‘a Jordan Taylor play.'

"(Allen) had to cut off Jordan's passing angles and had to focus stopping the drive instead of putting more pressure on him," said Gasser. "Our off-the-ball action, I think, really helped on that play and Jordan made a great play there to finish it off."

It's plays like that have helped the Badgers weather a shooting storm. In Wisconsin's first six games of the season, the Badgers shot 50 percent or better four times. In Wisconsin's five-game, 14-day stretch against four teams likely to make the NCAA Tournament field, the Badgers shot over 42 percent once and it was against the only team that probably won't make the field of 68 (Green Bay).

According to Brust, the stats are a reflection of an increase in competitiveness, but also that some open looks simply haven't fallen.

"I think we're just going to get going at it the way we are in practice," Brust said. "Keep practicing hard and getting shots up. When we come to the game, I am still confident in every one of those guys out there that they are going to hit the next shot."

Taylor admitted he could get 100 times better between now and the start of Big Ten play Dec. 27 at Nebraska, from being aggressive, making better decisions to making the offense ruin smoothly for a full 40 minutes.

As long as he and his guards keep the confidence with their shot, Wisconsin will be just fine.

"I want to try and help my team win," Taylor said. "Every time to step on the court, I am doing to do anything I can to help them win. I felt like it was a shot I could make, I took it and it went in. Other than that, it really doesn't mean much. Just go to the next game and try to get better."

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