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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Taylor finds a way against PSU

When thinking of some words to describe the performance of sophomore guard Jordan Taylor in the win against Penn State, resilient and incredible come to mind first, especially considering his recent struggles.

The Minnesota native started 0-of-8 from the field, missing badly on a few open opportunities, even on a fast-break layup, and with the Badgers down eight with just over two minutes to go, he was the last player anyone expected to carry Wisconsin to the win.

Since his 23-point outburst in the Badgers' upset of Purdue back on Jan. 9, Taylor had been stuck in a disappointing funk. At Ohio State he struggled, going 3-of-11 from the field, including 0-of-5 from behind the arc. And against Michigan last Wednesday Taylor was nowhere to be found, failing to connect on any of his seven shots.

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""He never changed expression, never got down on himself,"" head coach Bo Ryan said about Taylor's performance. ""You just have to keep searching. You just have to understand that sometimes things aren't going to fit.""

But something clicked during Sunday's game, and everything fit for Taylor after that.

He finally found the bottom of the net on a huge 3-pointer, his first since the Purdue game, and the Nittany Lion's lead was cut down to five.

""I finally got one to go down,"" Taylor said with a smile. ""I hadn't hit a shot in three halves, so I figured one had to go down eventually. Then one went down and I kept shooting, and fortunately, I started to get hot a little bit.""

Taylor got hot enough not to miss for the rest of the game. Following a travel by Penn State's junior forward Andrew Ott, he hit another 3. And when Ott gave it away again on Penn State's next possession, Taylor slipped into the lane and dropped in a shot to pull the Badgers into a tie. The layup capped off Taylor's 8-0 run to clinch overtime.

""On the drive, I knew we were down two and I was just trying to make a play and get in the lane,"" he said. ""I was trying to make a play, and if they collapsed on me, then find an open guy, but they didn't so I was just trying to make something happen.""

In extra time, Taylor's heroism continued. He hit his third 3 of the game and followed it up with a steal and a layup. Taylor would finish with 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting. In his explosive run he scored 18 of the team's last 24 points and was rewarded with continuous applause from the sold-out Kohl Center.

""We knew shots would fall. It didn't look like it at the time, but there were stretches where we got hot, and Jordan [Taylor] started to lead us towards the end of the game and that really propelled us to the victory,"" senior guard Jason Bohannon said.

It was Taylor's second 20-point game of the season, and thanks to his run, the Badgers completed the second-largest second-half deficit comeback against a Big Ten team. The 16-point comeback is topped by only an 18-point comeback  against Ohio State in 1976.

""Jordan Taylor got it going there the last couple minutes and made a big basket to tie the game,"" Penn State's head coach Ed DeChellis said. ""That's kind of been the story of our season. We've been one play away from winning several of these games. We just haven't made that one play.""

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