Men's basketball: Taylor sparks Badger win

Wisconsin jumps out to early advantage and cruises to 73-58 win at home over Northwestern

MADISON — Kammron Taylor is always the first Badger onto the court for Wisconsin out of the locker room at the Kohl Center. So it's only fitting that he led the Badger charge on the court Tuesday night.

The sophomore guard scored 18 points and led five Badgers in double-digits en route to a wire-to-wire 73-58 win over Northwestern.

The win puts Wisconsin (6-2 Big Ten, 15-4 overall) in sole possession of second place in the Big Ten, a half-game up on Michigan State. Northwestern falls to 2-6 in conference play, 9-11 overall.

Taylor and the Badgers came out of the gates connecting on all fronts as all five starters took turns hitting their first attempts from the field. The group also collected two of their season-high 10 steals in the opening two minutes and 49 seconds to take an early 11-2 lead.

With that the Badgers set the tempo for the rest of the game and never let up.

"They're a very solid team," Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody said. "Everyone says that they are fundamentally sound on offense and defense but they have a lot of good individual players besides that and they know their responsibilities and roles."

One individual in particular who stood out for Wisconsin was Taylor, who orchestrated a near flawless game starting at the point for the Badgers and dishing out five assists and committing only two turnovers.

And best of all for Taylor and the Badgers, his second-straight particularly strong performance came within the flow of the game.

"He's getting there," Badgers head coach Bo Ryan said. "Defensively I thought he did a pretty good job and a 5-to-2 ratio on assist-to-turnover, so that's a pretty good all-around game."

After the Badgers' opening burst, the Wildcats battled back behind their efficient offense and connected on 10 of their first 14 shot attempts. Northwestern cut the Wisconsin lead to four with 8:45 to go in the first half, but Taylor answered for the Badgers, sparking a 11-0 run over the following 4:30 to go up by double-digits for the first time. During the run, Taylor scored five points including his first of three 3-pointers in the game.

He finished the first half with 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc, but more importantly led the Badgers to a 16-point halftime edge.

"Kammron Taylor is a talent, he's really hard to defend," Carmody said. "When he's hitting down shots, he's tough to guard. If you get up on him, he's very fast and strong."

For the half, the Badgers as a team shot a scorching 54 percent from the field and 58 percent from beyond the arc. Despite allowing the Wildcats to shoot 52 percent from the field, defensively, the Badgers took advantage of nine NU turnovers and turned them into 15 points.

In the second half, the Badgers built as much as a 17-point lead early, but the Wildcats offense continued to give themselves easy basket opportunities. With its aggressive play in the paint, Northwestern ripped of a 13-4 run to close within seven with 5:51 to go, yet Wisconsin answered with solid free throw shooting and a clutch 3-pointer by senior Sharif Chambliss and ultimately closed out the game.

"They didn't rattle," Ryan said. "I might have on the sideline talking to the officials. But we got some good shots, some wide open ones and got to the rim a couple times and then got to the free throw line."

For the game, the Badgers connected on 17 of 23 from the charity stripe. Taylor hit 5 of 6 in second half and finally feels like he has gotten that monkey off his back when it comes to playing well at home.

"It felt real good," Taylor said. "I've been hearing a lot of I only know how to play well on the road. I just wanted to transform what I'm doing on the road to home. Hopefully this'll mean for the rest of the season that I play well both on the road and at home."

In addition to Taylor, freshman Brian Butch also stepped up for the Badgers in the first half. Despite turning the ball over the first two times he touched it, Butch settled down and connected on two attempts from downtown, contributing eight points by the break.

Butch finished with a career-high 12 points and also grabbed a game-high five rebounds.

Also scoring in double-digits for Wisconsin were seniors Mike Wilkinson and Clayton Hanson with 11 points, while Chambliss added 10.

For the Wildcats, junior Mohamed Hachad was the only player in double figures with 14 points off the bench. The Badgers held Wildcats' senior Vedran Vukusic, the league's second leading scorer in conference play, to nine points on 3 of 6 shooting.

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