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January 11, 2011Sharing a similar mindset as a throng of reporters, fans and coaches throughout the Big Ten basketball landscape, Jordan Taylor was quick to suggest that Illinois senior Demetri McCamey is the best point guard in the league.
To coincide with that thought process, Taylor naturally progressed toward his match up with Kalin Lucas tonight, and intimated much of the same praise for the former Big Ten player of the year.
"McCamey brings out the best in you," Taylor said. "He's a nightmare to guard. He's quick, he's fast and he's strong. Kalin Lucas is a great guard as well. I love going against him. He's a really polished player offensively. He's a really good player and he's a nightmare to guard as well."
Taylor, always modest when the media lights are centered on him, can be paired in with those elite guards, too. Though he'd be reluctant to say anything about it - Taylor laughed when he heard ESPN's Dan Dakich tabbed him the best guard in the league - Taylor has the numbers to back it up.
Entering tonight's game at Michigan State, Taylor ranks second nationally with a stupefying 4.24 assist-to-turnover ratio, ranks second on the team and eighth in the Big Ten with 16.4 points per game and even gets after the boards, hauling in over four rebounds per contest.
If those aren't All-Conference numbers, it would be hard to imagine what would be.
"You have to look at what his team has done and when you look at what his team has done to help us get to where we are," assistant coach Lamont Paris said. "I think you have to look at him as one of the best point guards in the league. He doesn't turn the ball over, he's going to make shots, and he makes good plays and great decisions.
"What do you want from your point guard?"
Really getting into the thick of the Big Ten conference schedule now, it seems as though Taylor, McCamey and Lucas are widely regarded as the cream of the crop at their position league-wide.
McCamey is averaging more than 16 points and seven assists to go along with his better than 50 percent shooting clip from the field for Bruce Weber's Illinois squad. Lucas is averaging just less than 15 points per game, but dishes approximately four assists while swiping a steal or two each time out.
But Taylor, with his size, strength and consistently impressive play, doesn't go unnoticed.
"He's one of the more intelligent, in terms of understanding when, why, how and when not to (do things)," assistant coach Greg Gard said. "You really don't have to remind him of a lot of things. He's really a coach on the floor. His intelligence from that standpoint is a huge attribute."
So is his strength.
If you look at Taylor's second half numbers throughout UW's 15 games, the junior guard is averaging 9.1 points in the second half. When taking into account his overall average per game is 16.4, it becomes obvious that Taylor does the majority of his damage in the second half.
Over the past four games, Taylor's second half scoring numbers are even more exaggerated. In wins over Coppin State, Minnesota and Michigan, as well as a loss to Illinois, Taylor is averaging 12.5 points during the second half.
Knowing he scores in the first half, too - Taylor is averaging 7.3 points during the opening 20 minutes of games - is it fair to say he grinds his defender down throughout the course of a game and takes advantage of them when they are at their weakest, primarily late in the contest?
"I really don't know to be honest," Taylor said. "I couldn't tell you. I just try to keep plugging away and try to keep even-keeled. If you have a bad first half try to come out and have a good second half. If you have a good first half you want to keep it going in the second half.
"I couldn't really pinpoint one thing on it, I just try to keep plugging away at all times and stay consistent."
Paris, in his first-year of coaching Taylor, sees it a little differently.
"He's resilient," Paris said. "As strong as he is, he's got a high motor. Early in the game he may not have the opportunity to break guys down as much. But as he wears on them physically throughout the game, this is a physical league in general and he's a physical player, so by the time that last five, 10 or 15 minutes of the game (comes) he's still operating at the same level he was when the ball was thrown up at the beginning.
"Other guys are worn down a little bit. I think that plays a big factor for him."
Taylor also shoots 45 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes, as compared to a 42.5 percent clip during the first half. While much is to be said about Taylor's strength and ability to grind opponents down - head coach Bo Ryan says Taylor is always eager to hit the weight room - its also something he has to deal with when guarding the McCamey's and Lucas' of the Big Ten.
In a losing effort to Illinois, UW's only league hiccup so far, Taylor did his part in the second half by scoring 12 of his 19 points during the frame. But while Taylor was performing at a high level, so to was McCamey.
The Illini senior scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half largely against Taylor.
Knowing that, in addition to the UW loss, is there any merit to the thought that UW struggles when Taylor is pitted against a physical guard, just as many teams struggle against him for the very same reasons?
"There may be some merit to that," Paris said. "It's definitely a byproduct of being a strong guard. It's a physical league and every game is going to be like that. You have to be resilient enough to handle that and still be able to do what you need to do.
"He (Taylor) is able to do that."
Taylor asserted that he loves playing against guys like McCamey and Lucas because, among other things, they demand the best out of you. It's a challenge that will mold him into a better player, one that can perform at an even higher rate than he's currently playing.
This week, the junior guard gets to match skills with each of them.
Though both of those players are 'nightmares to defend,' it wouldn't be too far fetched to think those guys think the same thing about Taylor. And really, it wouldn't make much sense for them to think any other way.
"I hope so," Taylor said. "That would be cool. I don't really think about that. I'm just trying to go out and help my team win and try to do my thing on the court defensively and offensively try to create other opportunities for guys.
"I just want to make sure we're scoring at an efficient pace."