In his final performance in Minneapolis, Taylor saved his best performance for last.
After scoring seven points in the game's first half, Taylor went on to score 12 points in Wisconsin's 75-62 victory Wednesday night to keep the Badgers in first place in the Big Ten.
To say Taylor had struggled on the Gophers' home floor would be an understatement. His sophomore year – a 10-point loss to Minnesota – saw Taylor make only two buckets on 13 tries. A year later, Taylor's struggles continued on the raised floor in Minneapolis, once again making only two buckets in the game's 40 minutes.
"In year's past, he would try to do everything," Alando Tucker said. "He would try to score and make a ton of assists. That's one of the things that playing in front of your home crowd does, you have to keep everything intact."
Taylor's third and final visit was in stark contrast to his first two trips. No longer was he the player trying to single-handedly take over the game, hoisting up shot after shot in hopes they would go in. This time around, Taylor was patient, letting the defense give him the opportunity instead of the other way around. After being jittery on his first few attempts from the floor, Taylor fell into a rhythm, taking quality shots and penetrating into the lane.
"I think Kam is a seasoned, quick player [that] improves every year," Minnesota head coach Jim Molinari said. "He's played well all year and he did a heck of a job [tonight]."
In addition to year's past, Taylor was more composed in his role as point guard, which was evident by his second half performance. Looking like an experienced floor general, Taylor orchestrated an 11-2 run early in the second half that effectively put Wisconsin ahead for good. After Minnesota center Spencer Tollackson put Minnesota ahead on a three-point play, Taylor calming drained a three from the top of the key in response, spearheading the Wisconsin run.
"The senior leadership really showed up in the second half," Taylor said. "We calmed down, tuned out the crowd and once we started taking our time and executing, good things happened to us."
Taylor was also savvy with the basketball, something he's been known to struggle with on the road. After a combined six turnovers in his last two games, Taylor turned the ball over only twice Wednesday night.
"He was solid like he always is," head coach Bo Ryan said. "He always knows he can play better from a floor leadership standpoint. The key is to make sure we're getting into our offense, getting good looks, getting good shots and he was much better with that in the second half."
"He stayed composed [tonight]," Tucker added. "He made sure he talked to guys, being more vocal. He was our floor leader out there."
Although his point total wasn't astronomically high as compared to teammate Alando Tucker – a team-high 29 points on 50 percent shooting – and his shooting percentage was average (4-for-10), it was the little things Taylor accomplished tonight that weren't there in the past – good decisions, holding onto the basketball, limiting his fouls and taking quality shots. For all these reasons, Taylor never left the court until Coach Ryan replaced him with 46 seconds left. With a high-five from Tanner Bronson and a wave of the towel, Taylor left the floor to a standing ovation from the Wisconsin crowd.
"A lot of times in the past, he would be making turnovers and that would get him down," Tucker said. "He played 39 minutes tonight and that goes to show that he was doing a lot of good things on the court."
Wisconsin's 25th win – tying the school record – also marked Taylor coming full circle. No longer trying to carry the scoring burden, the senior point guard conducted another sound performance by the third ranked Badgers – doing it with maturity, composure and in front of his family and friends who had watched him grow the whole way.
"I'm older, I'm more mature and I don't let the excitement of coming home get to me," Taylor said. "When I don't do that, that's when I play well and the team plays well."