Scoring 22 points in 40 minutes but watching a lead dwindle to nothing down the stretch, Taylor was a possession away from ending his career 0-3 in Minneapolis and dropping another heartbreaker where fans said he didn't do enough. He would have none of it.
UW's senior point guard and Bloomington, Minn., native used his defense to force a game-winning shot to fall well short and use his offense to get back on track with a dominate 27-point performance in No.21 Wisconsin's 68-61 victory over the Golden Gophers Thursday night.
The win helps Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) keep pace with first-place Ohio State in a crowded Big Ten and continues what is an impressive run of road dominance for the Badgers, who improve to 8-2 away from its home venue.
"Anytime you can win on the road against a tough opponent, it's always fun," said Taylor. "I haven't won here, so I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't enjoy that one a little bit."
It appeared it was going to come easy with time winding down in the second half. Building its lead to as many as 13 points, Wisconsin was sitting pretty after Jared Berggren converted one of 12 offensive rebounds into points, making the lead 51-41 with 7:43 remaining.
Those were the last points Wisconsin made in regulation, as nine consecutive missed shots and a 10-0 run ignited a Gophers crowd dying to cheer for something all night. It nearly could have been 12-0 had Taylor not scouted the tendencies of Andre Hollins.
Hollins scored 20 points to lead the Gophers (17-8, 5-7) but got caught when Taylor read his crossover dribble and forced a shot the UW senior contested. The end result was an air ball and desperation heave by Austin Hollins with no time left that sent the game to overtime.
"I have seen the play a few times and I know he likes the left-to-right cross," said Taylor. "He's quick, so I just tried to stay solid, stay in front of him and I was fortunate to get a piece of the shot."
Josh Gasser was kicking himself in those few seconds between shots. After the initial miss, Gasser had an opportunity to secure the loose rebound, but couldn't both hands on it. When Austin Hollins missed, Gasser knew he and his teammates had a chance to make up for nearly eight minutes of complacency.
"You think we'd be a little rattled with the big lead we had, but we were still confident," said Gasser, who added nine points. "We were still up. We just got together and (said) we were going to win this thing. There was no doubt in our minds that we weren't going to come out with a win. It basically came down to five minutes and we just had to win those five minutes."
Wisconsin didn't just win those five minutes in overtime; they won them going away. Attacking the paint early and often in the extra session, it started with Gasser drawing a foul as he attacked the rim and continued from there, as the Badgers scored 15 of their 17 points from the line on 15 of 17 free throw attempts.
"We definitely felt in control," said junior Ryan Evans, as UW scored 19 points in the 20-minute second half in comparison to its overtime production. "We put them back on their heels and we kind of rolled from there. I think the game was over after the first couple buckets in overtime."
In two previous trips to his home state, Taylor has scored only two points on 1-for-10 shooting. He eclipsed that total on his first shot of the game and never fully cooled. His 27 points were the most he's scored in a win this season and his 14 points before halftime - hitting 5 of 6 shots and all four of his three-pointers – helped the Badgers build a 32-24 halftime lead.
"He came out real aggressive and he practiced aggressive last night," said Evans
As good as Taylor was scoring the basketball, Evans was sound in all the gritty areas. Although his mid-range jump shot missed the mark consistently, Evans still managed to score 17 points and grab a game-high 11 rebounds, giving him his first career double-double. He added three assists, two steals and one block.
"He did a lot of good things (and) played a lot harder when he was on the floor in so many areas," said UW coach Bo Ryan of Evans. "Guarding the ball, guarding the post, things like that. His presence was definitely appreciated by his teammates."
Evans also came up big in overtime by scoring a team-best six points, made UW's only field goal and all four of his free throws, two coming after he forced Chip Armelin to rush a jump shot that kept the score 55-51.
He was also one of the key contributors that scored 16 points in the paint against a Gophers defense that led the league in block shots, but only managed four in the game and none in the first half.
"It's just a mindset that you are going to pump fake, use ball fakes and get a good shot," said Evans. "You can always counter jumping ability."
It's also hard to counter deadliness from three-point range. Wisconsin's three starting Minnesota natives got the perimeter shooting off on the right foot - Taylor, Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren (9 points) hit their first three threes of the game – and the shooting never cooled. Wisconsin hit seven of its 11 three-point shots in the first half, which helped balance out its 2-for-12 from behind the arc the rest of the game.
Putting that shooting in perspective, Wisconsin hadn't made seven three-pointers for a game in the last three outings.
"In the first half, they were going down," said Taylor. "Guys were setting really good screens and getting good separation."
With four of their next five on the road, the Badgers' fifth conference road win doesn't separate them from the jumbled crowd above them.
"Coming off a loss, especially, we talked about starting a new winning streak," said Gasser. "Coming into Minnesota is no easy task. We played really well and ended up with the win. We know it's not going to get easier down the stretch, so we need to keep getting better in practice and grinding out some wins like we did tonight."