I believe there is an old proverb: If it shoots like Big Ten basketball and plays defense like Big Ten basketball, it must be Big Ten basketball.
Bo Ryan echoed that sentiment after his team’s 52-45 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday night.
After a dismal first half shooting performance (19%), the No. 15 Badgers used efficient basketball and free throw shooting to finish off the Gophers and stay competitive at the top of the Big Ten.
Considering Indiana’s big home win over Michigan State on Tuesday night, a loss to Minnesota (17-13, 5-12) would have dropped the Badgers into a tie for fourth in the conference.
In what is arguably the best conference in the country, with seven teams solidly in the NCAA Tournament or sitting on the bubble, Wisconsin and their signature slow-paced attack can’t afford a loss in their regular season finale against Illinois, either.
The win clinches a bye for Wisconsin in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
One of the keys for the Badgers, moving forward, will be the re-emergence of senior point guard Jordan Taylor.
In all honesty, he never fully went away, but a three-game lull from Taylor (in which the Badgers went 1-2) saw him average 11 points and have an uncharacteristic four turnovers in a loss to Iowa.
But two strong games, with 19 points in a win over Ohio State and 22 on Tuesday night against Minnesota, and the Badgers are back on track.
Chalk part of that up to a recommitment to getting to the free throw line, where Taylor can hit with consistency.
He is a combined 17-of-19 from the line in his last two, after not attempting a single free throw in the previous two, against Penn State and Iowa.
As goes Jordan Taylor, so go the Wisconsin Badgers.