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January 26, 2012MADISON - Seconds after an intense practice wrapped up inside an entirely barren Kohl Center arena earlier this week - - sans the handful of reporters hanging around - - Jordan Taylor gave a snarky response to freshman center Evan Anderson.
The exchange - - entirely in fun - - was geared toward a miscommunication that didn't provide Taylor any favors. In an attempt to dunk from a vertical standstill, Taylor handpicked Anderson to elevate him to the rim following his initial jump.
When the 7-foot center lifted and pushed forward it became essentially impossible for Taylor to throw down. He was too far under the rim.
So that's the genesis of the sassy smile and snarky remark. Taylor just wanted to be lifted straight up. No need to push forward.
That is the life and times of a player averaging 17 points per game during Big Ten play, after averaging a somewhat quizzical 12 points per game during the non-conference portion of the schedule.
"I'm just trying to stay aggressive," Taylor said. "It definitely helps when you put the ball in the hole. It makes your team look a lot better from an individual standpoint and a team standpoint.
"Everybody has been shooting the ball better, especially the past few games."
During its current four-game winning streak, UW has been shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from downtown. Those numbers increase if you were to subtract the Badgers pitiful shooting against Nebraska, a game the team still won, 50-45.
In wins over Purdue, Northwestern and Illinois, Wisconsin shot 43 percent from the field, and an even better 46 percent from downtown, nearly nine percentage points better than its overall performance during the four-game winning streak.
Taylor, meanwhile, has continued to increase his efficiency.
He's shot 41 percent from the field, 35 percent from downtown and 75 percent from the free throw line during conference play, all numbers that are better than his non-conference efforts.
His improved play, his higher scoring outputs and his ability to distribute the basketball aren't the only reason UW has been playing better of late, but it's certainly helping.
"He does so much for our team," UW sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. "Not just scoring. He plays great defense. He distributes the ball when he needs to. He gets those shots. He doesn't turn the ball over. With how much he does to help us, when he's playing well, it makes us that much better and tougher to beat.
"When he plays well guys around him do as well. He's the leader of this team and kind of gets us going."
Named a preseason All-American, Taylor entered the 2011-12 season with lofty expectations and hype. He says he never lets that type of attention sway his preparation habits mostly because he understands he's by no means a perfect player, even though his career 3.15 assist-to-turnover ratio ties Squeky Johnson (UAB) for the best of all-time.
"I feel like I can always get better," Taylor said. "Even last year there was times when I feel like there were some things I could do a lot better. I still feel like I can get a lot better from game to game. I always feel like I can do more.
"I just try to come into practice and try to work some of those things and try to translate what I do in practice to the game."
Who else is curious to see how he works the Anderson lift dunk into his in-game repertoire?