Road to redemption

Wisconsin point guard Kammron Taylor is trying to put his slump in the rearview mirror

PHILADELPHIA — In East Lansing, Mich., the evening of March 2, Kammron Taylor tried to compose himself as he talked to reporters following the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team's 74-65 loss to Michigan State.

He choked back tears discussing a game in which he made 4 of 18 shots and scored just nine points.

Then his emotions took over. Taylor abruptly lowered his eyes and put his head down glumly. He was quickly excused from the interview session as he made his way to the team's bus.

Two weeks later, as the ninth-seeded Badgers prepared for Friday's NCAA Tournament first round matchup with Arizona here, Taylor recalled part of that evening fondly. His teammates rallied around him, he said.

"That has been the biggest thing," Taylor said, referring to the support of his teammates. It has not been an easy couple of months for UW's junior point guard, who has continued to carry a heavy load for the team while his play has yo-yoed inconsistently.

Taylor cracked a wide smile and continued.

"I've got a guy like Mike Flowers," he said, referring to UW's sophomore guard. "After the Michigan State game, I wasn't doing too well, because I thought I didn't play that well and that I let my teammates down. He came to me and just told me to keep my head up because the team's going to need me down the stretch."

In consoling Taylor, Flowers turned to some sage advice he remembered clearly from a book he read in high school. The author: Michael Jordan.

"Michael Jordan never had two bad games in a row," Flowers said. "He had one game and the next game he comes out and he'll make it his personal goal to go out there and do whatever it takes to not do what he did last game

"Michael Jordan (also) said that's why your rearview mirror is 10 times smaller than your windshield. You've got to look forward."

Taylor has been striving to look forward often lately. Back on Feb. 12 he was averaging 16.2 points per conference game. But he has not scored more than 12 in a game since, averaging 9.3 points in the past six games. Wisconsin has lost three straight and four of its last five heading into the tournament, while its second most important player, Taylor, is fighting through a slump. In UW's last four losses, Taylor had three assists and nine turnovers while shooting 26 percent (12 of 47).

His teammates, though, know that he is one of the best players on the court, regardless of the competition, when he is on his game. Recently, though, highlight games have been blips. He almost single-handedly kept UW in a game at Michigan in January with a 29-point performance and he erupted for 24 points in a win at Penn State last month.

Taylor insists that he is mastering the art of selective amnesia, refusing to allow his recent struggles to bog him down as he moves forward. He does not even think about it, he said, until someone reminds him of it.

Asked what games this season stand out in his mind, Taylor's selections are telling: a 78-73 home win over Ohio State on Feb. 15 that was the Buckeyes' only loss in a 12-game span; an 82-63 trouncing of visiting Michigan State Jan. 8, back when the Spartans were ranked No. 7 in the nation; and a 54-51 win over UNC Wilmington on Dec. 12.

The Seahawks, also a No. 9 seed in the "Big Dance," have proven to be a formidable foe. Taylor missed his first eight shots in that game but scored eight points in the final minute, including a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"I had to throw that in there," Taylor said with a laugh. "But it wasn't just me who did it. My teammates, they hit shots before that that helped keep us in the game."

Taylor was grinning a mile wide after the UNCW game. It is that kind of joy he wants to rekindle.

Said Taylor: "Being the point guard and being one of the leaders on the team, I put so much pressure on myself that, you know, I haven't been playing well and I just have to go out there and start having fun again like I did at the beginning of the year."

Have fun, like hitting five 3s, including one to send the game to overtime, in an early season win over Eastern Kentucky.

Have fun, like dropping 27 points on MSU "because it's such a big rival."

Those joys are a part of the past, but that is the past Taylor wants to rekindle this weekend in Philadelphia.

"Hopefully he's taking that to the heart because his teammates are going to do so much and say so much but it's ultimately up to him," Flowers said.

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