Taylor-Made Redemption

Contuning to try and rebuild his confidence after his Columbus disaster, senior Kammron Taylor shook off a 1-for-9 shooting performance to hit the game-winning three-point basket to halt Wisconsin's two-game losing streak.

MADISON – Through 39 minutes, Kammron Taylor continued to battle his own personnel demons. After going 4-for-18 and missing a key free throw that attributed to Wisconsin loss in Columbus, Taylor, once again, couldn't buy a bucket. Visibly frustrated and with the Badgers down one with under a minute to go, Wisconsin gave Taylor one last chance to redeem himself.

On Saturday afternoon, he did just that.

On senior day, Kammron Taylor nailed the game-winning three pointer in the closing seconds that sent Wisconsin to the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago with their 22nd straight home win, earning a hard fought 52-50 victory over Michigan State.

"It's kinda the way this rivalry's been," Michigan State Tom Izzo said. "It was a heck of a game. I thought both teams played awfully hard."

After Spartan guard Drew Neitzel buried his 14th point of the second half, giving State its seventh lead of the game, Wisconsin was put in a precarious situation that, under Bo Ryan, is often unseen on their home court, a late game deficit. After a Wisconsin timeout, the ball found its way to Taylor, who badly missed a wide-open jumper from the free throw line.

"I can't lose confidence in shooting the ball," Taylor said. "I know I'm a very capable shooter. I just have to continue to just take the good looks. I wasn't trying to force anything. I was getting some good looks but they just weren't going down."

Now the Badgers found themselves in a deeper hole, as State controlled the ball and looked to bury the home team. Fortunately for Wisconsin, one of the things that kept them in the game was its defense and the physical play of Michael Flowers. Led by Flowers, Wisconsin forced 16 State turnovers, including six offensive fouls on Izzo's crew.

"There were some close calls and I am not going to say that it was lazy defense," Izzo commented. "Their defenses attributed to us [making mistakes] and there were jitters on both sides. There were some bazaar things that happened today on both sides."

The end result was a forced shot from Travis Walton – who went scoreless in the game - and the Badger secured the rebound with 20 seconds left. As soon as Wisconsin crossed half court with 11 seconds left, Coach Bo Ryan called a timeout to set up the Badgers' last chance.

"The [play] we called before that got us and even better look for two, but we had a counter off that if Kam's drive off a ball screen is played a certain way," Ryan elaborated. "It was a ball screen play that you see in basketball on a Saturday; you'll probably see 200 of them."

Out of the 200 though, it was hard to tell what was bigger – Taylor knocking down the winning three or him throwing the monkey off his back. Taylor nailed the three and when Neitzel's desperation shot fell short, Taylor jumped up on the scorer's table and pumped his fist to the sold out crowd.

"My feelings were at the highest they have ever been since I've been here at Wisconsin," Taylor said. "To go out on a note like that—hitting the game-winning shot in front of your home fans and in front of my family—I just felt good, especially the way I was shooting the ball."

From Izzo's perspective, the obvious choice was for the Spartans to go with the zone to not allow an easy bucket in the post and to stay focused on Alando Tucker. With Taylor's well documented struggles, Izzo wanted to make the senior beat them from the perimeter and not an easy drive to the lane.

"We elected to go zone at the end and I still think that's a good decision," Izzo said. "We were running out of bodies and I thought we'd have to forfeit the game. He made a heck of a shot. He hasn't been making a lot of those lately, but I guess that's the way it's written in Hollywood when you are a senior."

Of course, Taylor's late game heroics never would have happened if it wasn't for another outstanding performance by Tucker. The fifth-year senior's 26 points were a game high and put his career points at 2,125 and 1,012 career conference points, making him just the fifth Badger to eclipse 1,000 Big Ten points – joining Michael Finley (1,385), Claude Gregory (1,147), Danny Jones (1,122) and Rick Olson (1,108).

"[Tucker's] done so much for us that we weren't going to leave this game without making sure the ball touched him," Ryan said. "We weren't going to do that again."

But the story is all about Kammron Taylor, who had been beating himself up for a whole week because of his late gaff against the Buckeyes. Although he said he will never fully move past his mistake, his game winner will help lessen the pain.

"I would be lying if I said I didn't want to take the shot. Because I short-armed the first one before, and it was right there. I was thinking back to even the Ohio State game, when I had a chance to put us a good position to win the game. I wasn't going to force anything, but I wanted to take the shot … This week has been rough. But it has ended on a good note to go out on a win on your home court and the way just everything played out. It just makes everything worth it."

"You certainly hope [his confidence is back] but there are no automatics in life, like getting a jump shot to go in," Ryan added. "If it's an omen, we'll find out … You can't ask for a lot more from this [senior] group, although they claim that have a lot more to do. We'll see. I'll be right there with them."

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