Taylor averaged 17.7 minutes per non-conference game but played just 11 minutes per game in his last four prior to the start of Big Ten play. In seven non-conference games coming off the bench, Taylor averaged just 4.7 points per game.
Conference play has changed all of that. Taylor leads the Badgers' bench with 21 minutes and 10 points per game in league-only games.
Taylor is not starting but his strong free throw shooting and rapidly improving defense make him a prime candidate to finish games, as he did in Wisconsin's 62-59 win over Michigan State Sunday. And Taylor has earned enough trust that the Badgers called a play for him down one with under a minute left to play. He answered the call, hitting a floater in the lane with 31 seconds left to give UW a 60-59 edge.
"Kam Taylor is a young man who simply had to give a 110 mile per hour mental approach to the game to the speed limit with his body," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said in a conference call Monday. "That's what he's done here recently. He's done a much better job with being in control."
Taylor's 11 turnovers in four Big Ten games is still too many but his decision making has been steadily improving. Taylor turned it over eight times in UW's first two conference games, with just one assist. He has four assists and three turnovers in the Badgers' last two games.
"There's always room for improvement and with him I like his upside because he has listened and he's starting to figure some things out about how to use what physical skills he has," Ryan said. "That's been a pleasant addition because we've really needed that once we got into the Big Ten."
Rest and relaxation
After playing three games in eight days Wisconsin does not take the court again until a road game with Michigan Saturday. The Badgers lifted weights Monday but will not practice again until Wednesday.
Ryan is pleased that Wisconsin has time to recover after Sunday's come-from-behind win.
"It's good to be talking to you after a satisfying win for our guys yesterday," Ryan said in his opening remarks Monday. "They showed some true grit. Now we get some time to heal a little bit."
Sophomore forward Alando Tucker could benefit the most from the rest. Tucker gutted out an 8-point, 6-rebound performance in 26 minutes Sunday, playing on an injured right foot that hampered him throughout the game.
"He played yesterday and he'll be treated this week," Ryan said. "It's good to have a couple days here where he can get some time to rest the injury."
At the behest of UW's training staff, Tucker sat out the last three minutes of the game.
"He would not have played yesterday if he could not have put weight on his foot," Ryan said. "He was fine with it for the most part."
Wilkinson's record book
Mike Wilkinson's UW career is taking an ever more prominent position in the Badger record books.
Wilkinson is 13th in program history in career points (1,245), sixth in rebounds (710), first in offensive rebounds (263), fourth in blocked shots (100), eighth in minutes played (3,396), sixth in steals (150) and seventh in made (331) and attempted (444) free throws.
"Mike every day you just know what you are going to get from the first day of practice his freshman year and he hasn't changed," Ryan said. "He's improved in a lot of areas defensively: better with his feet, his positioning. On offense just being in the right positions. His angles. His use of the post moves.
"He's a guy that's always listened and always [has] been willing, especially the past couple years here once he became an upperclassman, he also helped the younger guys and he's still doing that right now He's improved not only with his execution on the court but also with his mental approach and to sharing things with the younger players."