Henson: Taylor shines on national stage

first_imgJordan Taylor has had to wait for his time in the spotlight.Despite currently producing one of the best individual seasons in Wisconsin basketball history, Taylor and his teammates hadn’t created much buzz in Madison before Saturday. The student section has been half-empty for games against Big Ten foes, and there’s been little excitement surrounding the No. 13 Badgers, who are in the midst of a typical winning season under Bo Ryan.Perhaps, the Wisconsin football team had something to do with that.The Badgers captivated Madtown throughout the fall and into winter with their run to a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl berth. Basketball consequently became an afterthought as a result of all the gridiron success.Now that run began for Bret Bielema and the Badgers when UW knocked off No.1 Ohio State at Camp Randall on October 16th. Taylor was in the stands, watching with his teammates, and after four quarters, he was celebrating a monumental football victory on the field with thousands of Badger fans.He was a spectator in awe of the performance put forth in front of him.This past Saturday, a slightly larger Wisconsin athlete found himself in the same situation. Kevin Zeitler, the starting right guard on the Badgers’ offensive line, was now a member of the Kohl Center student section, sporting his extra, extra large Grateful Red t-shirt. A few months ago, Zeitler was one of the athletes mobbed by Taylor and thousands of fans after a monumental win over OSU where he and his teammates shocked the nation.Now Zeitler and several other football players were the ones watching, hoping to celebrate another victory over the Buckeyes.This time, Taylor was the man in action against the top-ranked team in the land. The point guard who could help replicate the excitement felt on October 16.And under his lead, the Badger basketball team returned the favor.“We rushed the field when the football team beat them [Ohio State],” Taylor said to ESPN sideline reporter Jill Montgomery after the game. “We said that night we hope we’re in that same situation. We got it, the fans were unbelievable and we came through.”Saturday’s 71-67 Badger triumph was one of those games that provided images that stick with you, like the sight of Zeitler – an elated 315-pound lineman – hurdling chairs in the stands, frantically trying to make his way onto the floor.Or, the sight of an underappreciated point guard playing the game of his life against the best team in the country.When the Badgers trailed by 15 with just over 13 minutes remaining, the chances of another UW victory over the top-ranked, undefeated Buckeyes looked near impossible. But at that moment, Taylor took over. The Badgers responded with a 15-0 run of their own, fueled by Taylor’s 21 second-half points.He hit four of five three-pointers in that stretch. He penetrated the lane and found open teammates who made key conversions. He was in total control, and it was utterly mesmerizing.With just over five minutes remaining and the Badgers leading 57-55, Taylor gave us the image from a historic UW victory. The momentum had swung entirely in Wisconsin’s favor with the electric Kohl Center crowd ready to explode.Taylor stepped into a three with a hand in his face – but it didn’t matter. You knew that shot was going down as soon as it left his hands. That three-point effort ripped through the net, and the cool, always-collected Taylor finally let loose.He turned towards the student section, pounded his chest three times and let out a roar that said it all. This was his time. This was his moment. And he was going to carry his team to a win over the only unbeaten team in college basketball.“What he did right there, I don’t know if there are too many players in the country that have ever done that,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “Not just this year, but at any time, against the No. 1 team in the country.”Not even national player of the year candidate Jared Sullinger and the No.1 Buckeyes could deny Taylor’s star status.“We’ve never faced somebody like Jordan Taylor. He’s a big, physical guard who can shoot, who can move the ball, who can do whatever you want to help your team win,” Sullinger said to Luke Winn of SI.com after the game. “He’s a great basketball player.”Those who weren’t aware of Taylor’s ability before Saturday are well informed now. The junior point guard is one of the best players in America. Tom Izzo and Thad Matta can tell you all about it.Senior forward Jon Leuer may be the national name and the Naismith finalist on the roster, but he’s taken a back seat to Taylor.Taylor had quietly led the Badgers towards the top of the Big Ten conference and into the national rankings with his 18 points per game and an ungodly 4-to-1 turnover ratio. He’s shrugged off an award snub and let his play do the talking.We heard him loud and clear. Badger fans, UW football players, almost 200 credentialed media members and countless others across the country watched a performance for the ages Saturday.This is Taylor’s town now. And after leading the Badgers to an epic comeback victory over the top-ranked Buckeyes, we’re all waiting to see what he’s going to do next.Max is a senior majoring in journalism. Shocked the Badgers beat No.1 Ohio State in football and basketball, let alone in the same year? Still awed by Jordan Taylor’s epic performance? Let him know at [email protected]last_img

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