Grades: Taylor makes UW’s defensive play of year

first_imgDespite shooting poorly against KSU, junior guard Jordan Taylor came through with two crucial stops on defense to seal the win.[/media-credit]Every week, Herald Sports will look back at the last two games of the Wisconsin men’s basketball team and offer a report card grading the team’s performance.The Badgers’ season remains alive and well after two encouraging victories in the NCAA Tournament have earned them their fourth Sweet 16 berth since 2003.Out of the Southeast bracket, No. 4 Wisconsin topped No. 13 Belmont, 72-68, on Friday before winning a 70-65 thriller against No. 5 Kansas State in the third round Saturday.Wisconsin now begins preparations for No. 8 Butler, a mid-major team one year removed from a national championship game appearance that upset No. 1 Pittsburgh Saturday in a 71-70 instant classic. The two teams meet Thursday night in New Orleans, La.Offense – 4.5 out of 5You can’t ask for much more from an offense in the postseason. The Badgers shot .500 percent from the field and .545 from 3-point range against Belmont and then hit .420 and .450, respectively, versus Kansas State while hitting at least .800 from the free throw line in both contests.The scoring came efficiently and was well distributed. Senior Jon Leuer and junior Jordan Taylor, who combined for 43 points against Belmont, were the only Badgers in double figures in that game, but four other players converted at least one 3-pointer while the bench contributed 18 points.Wisconsin divided the scoring even better against Kansas State, as four Badgers finished in double figures, and seniors Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz chipped in another trio of 3-pointers.Meanwhile, sophomore Mike Bruesewitz hit a clutch 3-pointer with a minute-and-a-half remaining, and freshman Josh Gasser sealed the win with two free throws in the final seconds.Against a kleptomaniac Belmont defense that averaged 9.7 steals per game, though, Wisconsin, which averaged a national-best 7.5 turnovers per game in the regular season, committed 13, which prevented the Badgers from obtaining a comfortable lead against the cold Bruins until about nine minutes into the second half.Defense – 4 out of 5The Badgers effectively prevented the Bruins from getting hot from the field, as they shot just .367 and .273 on the night, but the Wildcats – namely guard Jacob Pullen – seemed to score at will on the Wisconsin ‘D.’Only three players from Kansas State scored points on the night, but despite the rest of the squad going 0-for-8, the three put together a .458 and .500 team clip.Pullen played like a true senior in the postseason, scoring 38 points on 13-22 shooting, including 6-for-8 from the perimeter, and almost single-handedly beat the Badgers.Furthermore, both Belmont and Kansas State penetrated inside effectively, scoring 22 and 26 points in the paint, respectively.Despite that, Wisconsin forced eight turnovers against Kansas State, and the offense nearly maxed out those opportunities by scoring 16 points off them. In a physical and bruising contest, the Badgers kept pace with the Wildcats in the rebounding game despite ultimately losing, 32-30, but dominated the undersized Bruins 33-22.Bench – 3.5 out of 5This season the Wisconsin bench has been, at times, dormant. But in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, it came alive.Against Belmont, reserves Bruesewitz, Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans combined for 18 points on 6-9 shooting and 14 rebounds.Bruesewitz stood out the most, grabbing nine of those rebounds against Belmont and six more against Kansas State. He scored eight and 11 points, respectively, in those games, all on a sprained knee he suffered in the Big Ten Tournament.However, against Belmont, Bruesewitz committed four turnovers, and Berggren, despite playing a total of 17 minutes over the last two games, committed five fouls.Player of the Week – Jordan TaylorTaylor’s performance against the Wildcats may not have been pretty – he made just 2-of-16 shots from the field on the night – but it was the junior guard’s play down the stretch that prevented the Badgers from closing the books on their season.In the final minute-and-a-half, Taylor stole the ball from Curtis Kelly and on the ensuing possession provided the assist for Bruesewitz’s critical three. With 10 seconds remaining, Taylor hit two free throws to give UW a 68-67 advantage.The much-hyped guard duel between Pullen and Taylor seemed to have been won by Pullen for much of the game, especially when he got the best of Taylor with a fake behind-the-back pass on a late breakaway layup. But Taylor won the game on UW’s defensive play of the year, blocking Pullen’s 3-point attempt that would have tied the game with two seconds left.Those late-game heroics, added with 21 points on 5-13 shooting with six assists against Belmont, give Taylor yet another player of the week selection.last_img

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