One-shot wonderful: Taylor finds redemption

first_imgEVAN SCHWARZ/Herald photoThere was something distinctly cathartic about watching Kammron Taylor jump onto the Kohl Center scorer’s table pumping his fists triumphantly to the Kohl Center crowd. And not just to him, but for Badger fans everywhere who have seen the senior guard’s late-season struggles prove oh-so-costly for No. 4 Wisconsin. So when Taylor took the inbounds pass from Marcus Landry, came off an Alando Tucker screen, paused at the top of the key and then cold-bloodedly drained the game-winning 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds remaining to deliver a 52-50 victory over Michigan State on Senior Day, you couldn’t fault the UW players and faithful for feeling as if all the trials and tribulations of the past 10 days had been washed away.”It was a picture-perfect ending for Kam to hit that shot,” Tucker said. “In the manner that we won, everybody is confident now.”Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan wasn’t ready to say that Taylor’s shot was a sign of good things to come for the Badgers, but couldn’t help but feel excited for his senior point guard.”There are no automatics in life, and you are not promised tomorrow,” Ryan said. “So if it’s an omen, we’ll find out, but what a great way to walk off the court here for the last time.”Taylor, who was 1-of-8 on the day and had made just five of his last 26 attempts, didn’t hesitate to take the final shot.”My feelings are at the highest they’ve ever been since I’ve been here at Wisconsin. To go out on a note like that, hit the game-winning shot in front of your home fans and my family, it felt good,” said Taylor, who finished with eight points. “I wasn’t shooting it very well, but you can never lose confidence in your shot.”The victory gives Wisconsin (27-4, 13-3 Big Ten) the school-record most regular season and conference victories in a season and gives the team much-needed confidence heading into the Big Ten tournament, where the Badgers will likely see Michigan State (21-10, 8-8 Big Ten) for the third time in four games.Wisconsin’s Alando Tucker led all scorers with 26 points, while confirmed Badger-killer Drew Neitzel led the Spartans with 22. Michigan State reserve big man Goran Suton chipped in 16. The contest was reminiscent of Wisconsin’s contest against Ohio State a week ago, with a plethora of whistles, turnovers and missed shots. While the Badgers were able to stay out of foul trouble for the most part, the Spartans had three players pick up four fouls, with freshman phenom Raymar Morgan fouling out in the game’s final minutes.”We can’t play without Morgan and [Travis] Walton in there,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought we were going to have to forfeit the game there for awhile; … Morgan’s been our second-best player here for the last month, and we needed him in there, especially against a guy like Tucker.”With the Badgers up one, Neitzel gave the Spartans the lead with a jumper with 1:31 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Taylor missed a jumper at the free-throw line badly, drawing groans from the crowd and forcing UW to make a key defensive stop at the other end to set up the man of the hour’s final second heroics. During the timeout, Ryan drew up a simple screen and roll play between Tucker and Taylor to get the ball into his top players’ hands. It was nothing fancy but proved effective. “It was a ball-screen play that you see in basketball on a Saturday; you’ll probably see 200 of them,” Ryan said. “But none bigger than that one.”In a extremely tight game where neither team could build a lead larger than six points, Taylor owned the end of the game, but it was Tucker who owned most of the rest, finding some redemption of his own with 26 points on 7-of-15 shooting, after a pair of sub-par scoring games. The senior poured in half of UW’s points and was the only Badger player to score more than two baskets.Tucker scored 12 in the second half, including scoring nine straight Badger points (also assisting on Taylor’s other 3-pointer) to keep the Badgers afloat and in the game. Contrast that with Tucker’s second-half performance in East Lansing, where the senior managed only two points on 1-of-7 shooting.”Mike (Flowers) came to me and said, ‘You’re a big-time player, and this is where you have to step up,'” Tucker said. “That’s the confidence that my teammates give me, and I have that total confidence in myself that I have to be able to step up and take over at times.”It was Tucker’s play that dictated the simple strategy that Ryan had for the Badgers’ final shot.”We weren’t going to leave this game without making sure the ball touched him,” Ryan said.While the end was all the seniors could’ve asked for in a home finale, they expressed that nothing short of a mythical national championship will leave the group feeling satisfied when they hang up their cardinal and white uniforms.”That’s what you play for the whole year,” senior Jason Chappell said. “Anything less, we’re not going to be happy. Until we end up with a win in our final game, then we won’t be happy.”last_img read more