UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Taylor, teammates lead UW to Sweet 16

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgBy Saturday night in Tucson, the Badgers' 33-point showing in the Big Ten Tournament loss to Penn State officially became irrelevant. Advancing to the Sweet 16 has a way of blotting out the bad games.

After holding Belmont to a season-low 58 points, it was on to a true basketball slugfest on Saturday night. To this courtside observer, the game with Kansas State was one of the most intense, physical games I have ever witnessed. It also featured one of the best, if not the best performance by a Badger opponent I have ever seen.  

Let me just get this out of the way--Jacob Pullen is a stud. He is a special player in every sense. He can shoot. He can drive. He can defend. His 38 points matched his total against Kansas when the Jayhawks were ranked No. 1. The only negative from Wisconsin's 70-65 victory is that Pullen's college career ended. Opponent or not, even a Badger fan should appreciate this young man's talents.

Read "The Voice" in this week's issue of 'Varsity'

Of course, a storyline leading into the game was the matchup between Pullen and Jordan Taylor. While even Taylor admits that Pullen won the individual matchup, the Badgers' point guard continued to prove why he too is one of the nation's best players. On a night when he missed 14 of his 16 shots, the junior came through with two of the season's biggest defensive plays.  

First, with the score tied at 61-61, Taylor gets a steal that leads to a Mike Bruesewitz three. Then, with the Badgers up 68-65 in the closing seconds, Taylor blocks a three-point shot from Pullen to help seal the victory. Those plays, plus his six assists and no turnovers, is simply further evidence of a young player understanding there is more to helping a team than scoring. Just seeing the smile on Taylor's face long after the game, you would never know he was 2-for-16 from the field. You just knew he was happy that his team won and gets to play again.

Of course, the Badgers do not advance to New Orleans without the help of Josh Gasser, Tim Jarmusz and Bruesewitz, who combined for 30 points and 14 rebounds. It had to have been especially gratifying for Bruesewitz. After suffering a sprained knee in the Big Ten Tournament, no one really knew how much the big red-head could play, but after a good practice the day before the Belmont game, his confidence grew, and so did his production.

There will be some pretty good star power in the Big Easy this week. Wisconsin's Taylor and Jon Leuer, as well as Butler's Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, two players who know what it takes to get to the Final Four.  Florida's 5'8" guard Ervin Walker played a lot bigger in helping the Gators advance by beating UCLA. Then there's Jimmer Fredette of BYU. All he did was drop 34 on Gonzaga to send his program to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1981.
Yes, the stars will be out in New Orleans, but don't forget about their teammates. For the Badgers last Saturday, it was a team effort in every sense. If they are to keep playing after this weekend, it is likely they will need more of the same.