The talk of upsets was unavoidable heading into the broadcast on Big Ten Network. Even the the Badgers got back on track with victories against Purdue and Nebraska last week, the Badgers didn’t look particularly good against the Cornhuskers and, of course, lost a home game to Iowa earlier in the season. A shocking last-minute victory by Nebraska over Indiana only spurned the talk on at Big Ten Network headquarters.
It was close for the first half, but Northwestern’s key weaknesses — rebounding, shot defense, and depth — bit the Wildcats in the second half. The Badgers grabbed nine offensive rebounds on 27 misses (33.3%) while the Wildcats managed just three on their 26 missed shots (11.5%) and didn’t grab their second offensive board until less than three minutes remained in the game. The Badgers also shed their three-point woes, coming back from a stretch of 10-for-68 (14.7%) three-point shooting at home to nail 12-of-23 (and 11 of the first 17) to pull away, eventually settling on a 77-57 victory.
Ryan Evans was solid with a 17-point, nine-rebound performance, and Mike Bruesewitz was active, particularly in the first half with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. But it was Jordan Taylor who truly powered the Badgers in the win. The key piece of his performance? The return of the three-point shot — Taylor drilled four of his six three point attempts, three of which began the run which opened the game up in the second half.
With the Badgers up 41-36, Jordan Taylor took over.
|17:15||36-41||WI||Jordan Taylor makes a 3-point jump shot from 30 feet out. Mike Bruesewitz with the assist.|
|16:06||38-44||WI||Jordan Taylor makes a 3-point jump shot from 29 feet out. Josh Gasser with the assist.|
|15:31||38-47||WI||Jordan Taylor makes a 3-point jump shot from 28 feet out. Josh Gasser with the assist.|
|15:00||38-50||WI||Josh Gasser makes a 3-point jump shot from 30 feet out. Jordan Taylor with the assist.|
The Wildcats went to a zone for the final three of these four possessions, challenging the cold-shooting Badgers too beat them with the long ball. After the fourth straight three-pointer fell, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody relented, but it was too late. The Badgers would eventually extend the run to 17-2, at which point the 55-38 lead was clearly too much for a decimated Wildcats squad (missing two rotation players) to handle.
Although Taylor still hasn’t capture the magic of last year — and without Jon Leuer drawing defensive attention and creating easy shots for the entire team, that wasn’t a reasonable expectation in the first place — he looks much more lively in recent times. With the 4-for-6 night, Taylor’s three-point percentage moves up to 33.7% and his percentage in conference play jumps to 36.1%. Throw in a six-assist, one-turnover game handling the ball, and we see Taylor can still be a very effective point guard and be the engine which powers this team to a successful Big Ten campaign.
The victory moves Wisconsin to 4-3 in the Big Ten conference, just one game behind Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State for the lead. There are five teams in front of the Badgers still, but…