Commentary

Jordan Taylor fuels comeback win

Originally Published: February 12, 2011
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

MADISON, Wis. -- With the outcome all but decided and pandemonium rampant in the Kohl Center, a kid in a Wisconsin jersey and red cape slipped out of the student section, scampered onto the floor and hugged Jordan Taylor as the guard reached the Badgers' bench.

[+] EnlargeJordan Taylor
AP Photo/Morry GashJordan Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half as Wisconsin rallied to beat No. 1 OSU.

"This is crazy," thought Taylor, who went crazy on Ohio State Saturday to the tune of 27 brilliant points.

The police were not amused. They escorted the caped invader off the floor.

But really, the kid was just beating the rush. Literally.

Eighteen seconds of game time later, the entire student section rushed the court and enveloped Taylor and his Wisconsin teammates in a swarming, sweaty group hug. A few moments later, Taylor rose up from the mosh pit on the shoulders of his fellow students -- fitting reciprocity after the junior put the No. 14 Badgers on his back in a 71-67 comeback triumph.

Same scene, different season, different sport: In October, the Badgers faithful rushed the field down the street at Camp Randall Stadium after taking down the undefeated, No. 1 Buckeyes. Wisconsin had so much fun that day at Ohio State's expense, it decided to do it again.

While the ending was the same, the circumstances this time were dramatically different. In football, Wisconsin took the lead on the opening kickoff and never trailed in a 31-18 triumph. In basketball, Wisconsin was 15 points behind with 13 minutes to play and apparently cooked, until Taylor put on a show reminiscent of a guy whose last name is Jordan, not his first.

"What he did there, if people don't take that and frame it, for a one-game performance …," raved Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. "He's a pretty good player all through the season, but what he did right there, I don't know if there are too many players in the country that have ever done that. Not just this year, but at any time, against the No. 1 team in the country."

If that sounds like hyperbole, you must not have watched the game. Because Taylor went on a binge that might be the most impressive 13 minutes of basketball by any college player this season. (Yes, Norris Cole went for 41 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists Saturday -- but that was against Youngstown State. Taylor was facing slightly tougher competition from Ohio.)

[+] EnlargeMike Bruesewitz
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireMike Bruesewitz scored a number of key baskets during the Badgers' second-half run.

"It was unbelievable what he was able to do in such a short period of time," said teammate Jon Leuer.

Starting when the Buckeyes took their biggest lead, at 47-32, all Taylor did was this: score 21 points, make six of seven shots and assist on four other baskets -- three of them 3-pointers. He also had a deft pass to Mike Bruesewitz that led to a foul and two made free throws. All told, Taylor had a direct hand in 34 of Wisconsin's final 39 points.

Bruesewitz was the main beneficiary of Taylor's passing, hitting a pair of huge 3s as the defense converged on the Badgers' molten point guard. The second of those came with 29 seconds left, blowing the lid off Kohl and icing the game for Wisconsin.

Ohio State's game plan was to "let [Bruesewitz] be the guy that beats us," said Buckeyes coach Thad Matta. "And today he did."

Matta's thinking was completely understandable. Bruesewitz doesn't look or play the part of a cold-blooded clutch shooter. He appears to have a rust-colored poodle tied to his head -- curly red hair is all over the place -- and he'd made just three of 17 3-point shots in Big Ten play prior to Saturday.

But Ryan loves the sophomore's effort, and the Trying Tomato came through on the biggest stage of his career.

As a result, Ohio State can mourn the loss of its unbeaten season -- which was an inevitability anyway; nobody goes undefeated anymore. But there was little else for the Buckeyes to feel bad about Saturday.

They never win in this building, and neither does hardly anyone else. And truth be told, Ohio State had several good shots just slip out that could have stopped Wisconsin's 15-0 run to tie the game at 47.

"It flipped," Matta said. "We started missing shots and they started making shots."

[+] EnlargeThad Matta
AP Photo/Morry GashThad Matta saw his team lose a 15-point second-half lead en route to its first loss of the season.

Even with the loss, the Buckeyes can make a convincing case for staying No. 1 in the polls. But their biggest concern going forward could be exactly what bit them in the NCAA tournament last year: lack of depth.

Against the Badgers, Matta played five players 34 or more minutes and two others just six apiece. Star freshman big man Jared Sullinger went a statistical 40 minutes and appeared to be dragging at times during the second half -- but he had the energy to tweet after the game that he was spit upon in the face by fans both before and after the contest.

If true, Wisconsin has bigger fan behavior issues than the caped invader. That kind of thing cheapens Jordan Taylor's brassy game and classy demeanor.

His final stat line was a work of art: 27 points on a super-efficient 13 shots, four rebounds, seven assists and just one turnover. Taylor came in leading the nation in assists-to-turnover ratio at 3.89 to 1, and just improved that gaudy statistic.

The fact that he did that against Ohio State's Aaron Craft, who is an excellent defender, made the display even more impressive.

Taylor now is averaging 20.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in Big Ten play, yet he somehow couldn't make the finalist list of 10 for the Bob Cousy Award, which is given to the nation's best point guard.

"I heard about that and almost thought it was a joke," Leuer said.

Taylor downplayed the snub, saying he didn't even know what the Cousy Award was until people started ranting about him not being a finalist. Which is in character for a young man of high character.

Ryan is fond of declaring that Taylor could one day be governor. Or president.

"Or both," he said. "Hang around with him sometime. You will walk away going, 'Wow.'"

Funny, that's exactly what 17,230 people did when the left the Kohl Center Saturday.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.

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