Tip of the cap to Taylor's toughness

For the second consecutive game, guard Jordan Taylor shows Wisconsin fans what to expect in the years to come, as the freshman never-quit attitude it bringing a spark to the Badgers off the bench and on the floor.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It's usually not easy to find bright spots when your program loses four consecutive Big Ten Conference games for the first time in your head coach's tenure.

Not this time for University of Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. His silver lining comes in a 6-foot-2 package of a point guard by the name of Jordan Taylor, who did his best Saturday to channel his inner Joe Krabbenhoft.

"Let's just put it this way: Jordan Taylor is a man," Ryan said.

In the sold-out Assembly Hall that was so excited about its resurgent Fighting Illini, nobody probably noticed the opposing backup point guard, even if they pay attention to statistics. Taylor won't raise many eyebrows with his 2-of-6 shooting for four points, to go with three assists and no turnovers, one rebound and one steal.

But it's not about statistics in Ryan's system. In fact, the part of that line that makes Ryan giddy is the three-assist, no-turnover performance that matches Taylor's line at Iowa last Wednesday.

If you're scoring at home, that's six assists and no giveaways for a rookie point guard that is seriously contesting incumbent Trevon Hughes for more playing time. Granted, Hughes was better Saturday – 13 points, one assist, no turnovers – so the two guards played many minutes together down the stretch.

But Taylor did so much more than hold on to the ball. He fought tooth and nail to get that ball in the closing minutes when UW needed to create turnovers, and helped the Badgers nearly turn the tables on Illinois with a steal and, basically, an assisted steal (knocking the ball away to forward Marcus Landry on a bad Illini pass).

Ryan so struggled to contain his excitement for Taylor's grit that when asked about pairing him and Hughes on the court together, he thought for a moment and changed the subject slightly, replying with the above quote, plus:

"He's going to play and he's earned it," Ryan said. "He was just close, close, close … now, it's not close anymore. He's going to be on the floor. Because he'll stick his nose in, he'll get bloody. He's tough. I can only coach those kind of guys."

Ryan's toughest guy, Krabbenhoft, lit up the stat sheet with his 16 points (a career high) and 12 rebounds. But he's certainly noticed Taylor's spark as well.

"He's been giving us a great lift off the bench. He's doing a great job out there," Krabbenhoft said. "I love the way he plays; I just love playing with him. That's a guy that when I'm done playing, when I think about my teammates, Jordan Taylor's always going to come up. I just love playing with him because he gives it his all."

"Those are the kind of players we recruit here, and Jordan's just getting a good opportunity to show it."

Taylor seems fine with being paired with Hughes, and when shooting guard Jason Bohannon is on the floor, giving UW an incredibly small, but talented, lineup.

"Whatever lineup is on the floor, we try and go out and do what we can, try to get a win, which we haven't done in a while," Taylor said. "Whatever lineup Coach puts out there, we just try and mesh together as teammates, get after it together and get after the other team."

Ryan put any doubt to rest Saturday; his lineups are going to start seeing a lot more of Taylor.

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