Reflecting on Taylor's 'All-American' effort

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Seconds after exiting the UW locker room Thursday night, Jordan Taylor was informed that he had just matched his season-low in assists against Indiana. That was brought to his attention by a member of the press corps. It was seemingly intended to get a laugh out of Taylor.

4567522.jpegIt had the opposite effect. "That's true actually,'' Jordan said with a straight face. "Seriously, there were some guys who made cuts - Keaton (Nankivil)--I think I missed a few times.''

Nothing frames Taylor's selflessness more than that snapshot. While it's true that he had just one assist against the Hoosiers - matching his season-low against Boston College in late November - it's also true that Taylor was terrific in his decision-making and execution on ball screens.

Oh, yeah, he did score a career-high 39 points.

"That was awesome--awesome to be a part of,'' said UW video coordinator Sharif Chambliss, a sharpshooter of some renown during his college days at Penn State and Wisconsin. "That was awesome to watch Jordan put the team on his back tonight and we rode him on out.''

Nankivil used the words "incredible'' and "phenomenal'' to describe Taylor. "When you're playing in the game, you don't really notice,'' he said. "But at the end of the game you look at the box score and you see how much he carried us offensively. He made all the plays he could possibly make.''

Indiana coach Tom Crean called Taylor an "All-American'' and the "real deal'' after he burned his defense for a second time. Taylor had 28 points against the Hoosiers in Madison. In the two games, he made 20-of-34 shots (.588), 10-of-14 from beyond the 3-point arc (.714) and 17-of-17 free throws.

"Some shots that he made were amazing,'' Crean said. "Maybe they've seen them in practice, but I've never seen those made in games. He made some incredibly challenged shots. For a kid like Taylor, the open shot is anything less than your outstretched arm. He made shots over 6-8 and 6-9 guys.''

Whenever the Hoosiers switched on ball screens, it left Taylor to operate on either 6-foot-9, 250-pound Tom Pritchard or 6-8, 230-pound Christian Watford. Neither could contain him.

"Coach (Bo Ryan) preaches that all year round,'' Taylor said. "If they're going to switch a big on you that's a mismatch - a big on a guard - unless it's like Amare Stoudemire or KG (Kevin Garnett).

"So I was just trying to make a play. They were backing off a little bit sometimes. And other times they were kind of pressing up on us. I just tried to make some good decisions with the ball.''

Taylor sighed and added, "I also made some bad decisions with the turnover.''

Another snapshot of his unselfishness.

He had one turnover in 39 minutes.

So what did it feel like being in such a zone?

"Sometimes the basket just gets bigger,'' said Taylor, who once scored 43 in a high school game. "Every basketball player has probably experienced it. My teammates did a great job of spreading the floor and kept moving without the ball and it just made it easier to get better looks at the basket.''

Nankivil was asked about the pressure that Taylor puts on a "big'' to defend.  "They say size is a big factor in basketball and it is,'' he said. "But speed is equally hard to match up with when you have that threat of speed going to the basket. He also has the ability to stop and pop and hit the shots.''

Although Taylor insisted that there wasn't a point in the game where he felt like he was on the brink of such a scoring clinic, he conceded that after making a leaning, jumper over Watford at the end of the shot clock in the first half, he thought that "things might be going my way a little bit.''

At Wilkes College, Bo Ryan once scored 43 against Susquehanna.

There was no 3-point line, either.

So what did Ryan think about his point guard Thursday night?

"How do you describe that?'' he posed, answering a question with a question. "He hit tough shots with guys in his face. And then when they crowded him, he attacked and got to the rim or got fouled. That's as good of an individual performance as I've ever seen. I can't put it into words. And you know for a guy from Chester (Pa.) if he can't put it into words, it's probably not describable.''

On making reads off ball screens, Ryan said, "Those decisions were very very helpful because he was able to get separation or he was able to attack off the bounce. I figured they were going to go to him more with maybe a second guy like they were doubling Jon Leuer in the first half. We spread the floor pretty well and Jordan was ready to pass it to somebody but he was the one getting open.''

Taylor has made steady progress as a shooter. Last season, he was under 40 percent.

"He has done a terrific job of working really hard,'' said UW assistant coach Gary Close. "We've changed a few things. I don't know that if there was anything real major. We tried to get him a little more consistent and tried to take some of the movement out of the shot that isn't necessary.

"In a lot of cases that's when inconsistency starts to creep in. We've made him a little tighter, a little more concise and he's worked real hard at it. You can tell guys a lot of things, but if they don't go and work at it - it doesn't make a whole lot of difference. He deserves a whole lot of credit.''

Not that Taylor was taking any. Why change now?

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