Changing of the Guard?

As Trevon Hughes continued to struggle, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan made the decision to pull his veteran guard and insert freshman Jordan Taylor. The move appeared to pay off, as Taylor thrived on the court while Hughes sat quietly on the bench.

IOWA CITY, Iowa —Oh, much is in disarray for the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team.

Not only did the Badgers suffer their third consecutive defeat (and second in come-from-behind fashion) at the hands of Big Ten cellar dweller Iowa, but there is arguably a big-time personnel controversy for coach Bo Ryan's club.

And no, that's not in reference to his starting lineup, which was altered for the first time this season when senior forward Kevin Gullikson took the place of struggling sophomore center Keaton Nankivil. Gullikson did his usual work to give his team a spark rebounding and defending, and Nankivil actually found a scoring touch with six points against the Hawkeyes.

Rather, the controversy lies within the most important position on the court: point guard.

Early in the second half, freshman Jordan Taylor came into the game for junior starter Trevon Hughes, and Taylor immediately directed his team on a 9-0 run to give UW its largest lead of the game at 35-28.

Then with 5:10 remaining and the Badgers leading by three, Hughes took the ball on a wild fast break and lost the ball under the basket for his third turnover of the game. Ryan could not have gotten Taylor out of his seat fast enough to replace Hughes, who had not registered an assist yet in his 25 minutes.

In the last ten minutes of the game thereafter – five in regulation and five in overtime – Taylor did not leave the court and finished with 20 minutes, two off his season high.

Even more remarkable: despite watching forward Joe Krabbenhoft and Jon Leuer foul out, Hughes did not return to the game either.

Clearly, there's a doghouse on Ryan's bench, and Hughes is holding down the fort.

"We go the last five minutes and some seconds (of regulation), and then five minutes of overtime without a turnover. What a great job our guys did of at least getting looks and getting shots at crunch time," Ryan said afterward, no doubt referring to one particular guy. "I was pretty impressed with that."

Taylor, Mr. Basketball in Minnesota last year at Benilde-St. Margaret, had the inverse of Hughes' stats handling the ball with three assists and no turnovers. He was poised in handling UW's offense amidst a startlingly loud Iowa crowd.

"I don't think about stats obviously while I'm out there, but it's great, the stat line's great," Taylor said when told of his high marks on efficiency. "We've got a great group around me helping us out."

But the climactic play in Taylor's young career was not passing the ball or managing the game. It involved the greatest weakness he's shown since coming to Wisconsin: shooting the ball.

With 3.1 seconds to go and Iowa leading 60-57 with its home crowd to its feet, UW's Tim Jarmusz inbounded the ball on a long pass to Taylor, who took a step back toward the sideline, then pulled up and threw a 25-foot shot at the basket.

Nothing but net. Overtime. Badger bench mobs their young star for saving the game (if for only but a few moments).

Not bad for a kid who had shot 6-of-30 (20 percent) on the season thus far and had missed all of his 11 three-point attempts.

Taylor showed his moxie after that point too, going on to drill another three and finish on a drive in overtime. Though his Badgers lost, Taylor has clearly found his first hint of confidence on the offensive end, finishing 4-of-8 for 10 points.

"Hopefully, I'll get some momentum going forward, even though we didn't get the win," Taylor said.

Meanwhile, UW officials ushered Hughes out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena without comment, and Ryan would barely speculate on the future status of his junior point guard.

"Call it what you want," Ryan said when asked why Hughes never re-entered the game. "It's there, it's done, Illinois will be the next opportunity for us to get on the court, and we'll see how it plays out the next game, how many minutes one guy gets, how many minutes another guy gets.

"It's not in concrete."


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