One More Homecoming

Jordan Taylor (Fedie/11)

His numbers are down compared to last year, but senior guard Jordan Taylor doesn't care as long as Wisconsin is winning. With the Badgers two games out of first place heading into tonight's matchup with Minnesota, all Taylor cares about is getting his first win is his own backyard.

MINNEAPOLIS - Every day before practice starts, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has a routine of walking around and starring at his players in the eyes, checking the person's facial expression and demeanor in order to file it away in his memory bank.

Other players may have changed their look compared to Wisconsin's six-game winning streak and following its disheartening Ohio State defeat but the look on Jordan Taylor has never changed in four seasons.

"He comes with that look like, ‘All right, what are we going to get done today?'" said Ryan. "I haven't seen anything different in him. And he knows he's getting a lot more attention."

Taylor has been the center of attention all season, so it'll be nothing new when he steps on the court of Williams Arena this evening to lead No.21 Wisconsin (18-6. 7-4 Big Ten) against his home-state Minnesota (17-7, 5-6).

It's the beginning of a critical stretch for the Badgers, who play four out of five on the road and sit two games behind Ohio State in fourth place with seven remaining, so it's why Taylor isn't getting too nostalgic.

"For the most part I don't get too up or too down," said Taylor. "I try to go out and play, have fun, enjoy myself and try to go out and win."

When Taylor was a freshman, he came from his Twin Cities high school with a reputation as a bulldog, a do-everything point guard that would do-anything to win. It turned out to be a helpful trait, as he competed in practice in order to earn playing time and has that same mentality now that he is an All-American and a two-year starter.

"He was practicing to get better," said Ryan. "He was filing things away mentally. He was getting stronger in the weight room and figuring a few things out about the game at this level, as all young men have to do. But there was never a question of his, when you're that size, you're always going to be a guy that's overachieving, because people are always going to say maybe you're too short, too this, too that.

"I love coaching those kinds of guys that always have that little edge. Jordan, good little guard coming out of high school, got better, didn't stay average, not to beat that to death."

Taylor is the only member of the Badgers to have score points at Williams Arena, albeit it has been a struggle in two trips back home. In trips as a freshman and sophomore, Taylor has combined for only five points on 1-for-10 shooting.

Taylor knows the numbers don't define him, although people keep asking him about them. Compared to last season, Taylor's points per game are down (18.1 to 14.0) through 24 games, as are his shooting percentage (45.8 to 39.1), three-point shooting (42.4 to 31.5), free-throw shooting (84.7 to 73.5) and turnovers (29 to 35), but the senior has improved his steals and assists.

"I don't think he worries about the numbers, because sometimes numbers can be misconstrued," Ryan said. "But he'd like to see those numbers on the left hand side pretty high, and he comes to practice every day trying to do that, so he hasn't changed."

He knows the numbers aren't what he has been accustomed to, but Taylor continues to take care of the ball. With four turnovers in the last six games, Taylor had a streak of 159 consecutive turnover-free minutes snapped verse Ohio State. His career 3.17 assist-to-turnover ratio is still on pace to smash the NCAA record by .47.

"As long as we are winning, (my numbers) are fine (with) me and not that big of a deal," said Taylor.

Taylor has a lot of close friends with the Gophers – from injured forward Trevor Mbakwe to Rodney Williams, who leads the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals – but like his numbers, those are meaningless to him starting tonight at 6 p.m.

"I don't think (going home) is any more meaningful," said Taylor. "We're just trying to go in there as a team and try to find a way to win. It would definitely be nice to go back home and win because I haven't won at home yet."

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