Cavalry Arrives Just in Time

Kammron Taylor scores 14 second-half points, including 10 in a three-minute stretch, and the Badgers shut down their opponent's guard play for the second consecutive night, as Wisconsin advances to the Big Ten Tournament finals with a 53-41 victories.

CHICAGO – Kammron Taylor must have been envious of Alando Tucker over the past two halves. While Tucker dropped 18 second-half points against the Spartans and 14 in the first 20 minutes against the Illini, Taylor had yet to find his rhythm and his points in Chicago.

When Tucker eventually hit the wall and needed a breather, however, Taylor did his best ‘Alando' impression by putting his teammates squarely on his shoulders.

A day after Tucker's second-half barrage ignited Wisconsin, Taylor scored 14 of his 16 points after intermission as Wisconsin's supporting cast ran all over Illinois (23-11) in the second half, beating the hometown Illini 53-41.

The victory moved Wisconsin (29-4) into the Big Ten Championship game for the third time in four years and ends the Illini's 17-game win streak in the United Center.

"These have been two tough, physical games [in Chicago] and we're excited to be playing in the championship," head coach Bo Ryan said. "This is good stuff, being able to play the number one team in the country in a championship game. We're definitely excited about that."

Because of Taylor's scoring run, the Badgers will get that opportunity.

With 10:48 left in the game and pleading for the ball in front of Wisconsin's bench, Taylor drained a wide-open three to extend Wisconsin's lead back to eight. It was evident that the make gave Taylor some confidence, as the senior seemingly couldn't miss over a three minute stretch by scoring 10-straight Wisconsin points.

"I was making better decisions with the ball [during that stretch] and not try to force things like I did in the first half," Taylor said. "When shots are going down, everything looks good. [The stretches] give the other team members confidence and I was trying to make a conscious effort to make better decisions."

In addition to Taylor, Marcus Landry put together a solid stretch of second-half basketball that took some of the scoring pressure off Taylor and Tucker. Chipping in with six second-half points, Landry turned into a dominating physical presence in the paint, helping to shut down Illinois' big men by blocking two shots and helping to force 15 Illinois turnovers.

"[Landry] gives them a different element," Illinois head coach Bruce Weber. "When Landry and Stiemsma went out last year, they were a different team. Landry's not Butch, but he still gives them some athleticism. He went one-for-five from three, but the three he made was a back breaker for us. He's a difference maker for them because of that athleticism."

For the second consecutive tournament game, Wisconsin's guards have been a force on its opponent's backcourt. After limiting the Spartan guards to 15 points, Wisconsin only let Illinois' guards make four field goals and only two points in the first half. With Ohio State's potent guards next on the schedule, Wisconsin's guards are going to need to bring its "A" defense one more time this weekend.

"Mike Flowers and Trevon Hughes chased Drew Netizel pretty hard and worked him and the same thing with [Rich] McBride," Ryan said. "When he was open, you could see how good a shooter he is. I thought overall, our guys overall did a great job preventing Illinois' three-point shooters from getting comfortable."

"Wisconsin is a sound team that doesn't beat themselves," Weber added. "We did some things well, but they took things away that didn't give us easy looks and we couldn't develop a rhythm."

After Wisconsin was torched by Michigan State's front court on Friday, the duo of Warrren Carter and Shaun Pruitt found success again in UW's low post, scoring 16 of Illinois's 18 combined points including 10 from Carter. The second half brought much better numbers, as Carter and Pruitt could only muster a combine six points.

"They're a team that likes to work [the ball] in," Tucker said. "We knew that if we contained Shaun Pruitt most of the game, we'd be able to force them to find other ways to score."

"The guys moved their feet between Jason, Marcus and Greg," Ryan added. "We know tomorrow afternoon that we are playing against a guy that has a pretty good post presence, [but] it's always good when you have guys that are willing to commit to work the ethic of guarding guys in the post."

Now, with redemption on the mind of the Badgers and a number one seed in the national tournament at stake, the eyes of the nation will be focused on round three of Ohio State-Wisconsin tomorrow afternoon.

"As a player and competitor, you have to look forward to playing one of the better teams and they are one of the better teams in the nation," Tucker said. "It's the Big Ten tourney championship game. They are Ohio and we are Wisconsin and we're prepared."

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