Jordan Taylor awakens as Wisconsin rolls past Montana

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Seventeen points, eight boards, six assists, two steal and no turnovers while shooting 6-for-10 from the floor and hitting three of five from three.

That was Jordan Taylor’s line as No. 4 Wisconsin knocked off No. 13 Montana 73-49 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament out in Albuquerque, NM, on Thursday afternoon. And that is exactly the kind of stat-line that we had expected Taylor to put up all season long.

But he hasn’t.

Taylor’s importance to the Badgers hasn’t wavered. He’s still their star and he’s still an all-conference point guard and he’s still the guy that has the ball in his hands at the end of a clock, but he no longer tops the list of the nation’s best point guard. That’s what makes this performance so important.

So much of what Wisconsin does on the offensive end of the floor depends on Taylor, and when he is performing this efficiently, Wisconsin becomes very dangerous. Case-in-point: their 24 point win against a team that had become a trendy upset pick.

But Taylor wasn’t alone. Ryan Evans had a terrific game, finishing with 18 points and shooting 6-for-8 from the floor as he helped spark Wisconsin to a 10 point first half lead. As a team, the Badgers held the Grizzlies to just 49 points and 38.3% shooting from the floor. Jared Berggren didn’t play well offensively and only grabbed three rebounds, but his seven blocks helped slow down Montana’s penetration.

This was a total team effort, and an impressive one at that.

But if Taylor is playing like this the rest of the tournament, the Badgers might be able to make through the East Region.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.