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December 13, 2011

A nailbiter at the Cell

MILWAUKEE - Prior to hoisting from approximately 26 feet, with his squad up three and time ticking down, Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor had shot a somewhat dismal 4-of-13 from the U.S. Cellular Arena Floor.

He even went so far to call himself one of the worst offensive players in the game for the first 39 minutes.

Good thing there's 40 minutes in a regulation college basketball game.

Taylor's cold-blooded 3-pointer with 41 seconds left helped Wisconsin sneak past a hungry Milwaukee squad, 60-54 Tuesday night in front of the largest crowd in U.S. Cellular Arena regular season history.

"I missed a lot of layups," Taylor, who finished with 14 points said. "I just wanted to make a play and help the team anyway I could. I felt like he (Milwaukee's Ryan Allen) backed off a little bit so I took the shot.

"Fortunately it went down."

Wisconsin was clinging to a three-point lead with just under a minute to play. It had already outlasted a fierce Milwaukee run and was looking to slip the dagger into the back of a feisty Panthers squad.

That's when Taylor rose to the occasion.

"I knew it was going in," junior forward Ryan Evans said. "There's a look in his eye when you know Jordan is going to hit the shot. If you look at the film I actually started running back the other way.

"I didn't even look for the rebound because I knew it was going in."

Taylor, not normally known for displaying a ton of emotion, let loose an excited scream. A sort of primal yell that signaled he wasn't about to let his team blow what was once a 17-point Wisconsin advantage.

"How can you not want a guy like that taking that shot," UW junior center Jared Berggren, who finished with a game-high 17 points and nine rebounds, said. "When it comes down to it we all have confidence in him and he still has confidence to make that big shot.

"I think the majority of the time he's going to come through for us."

Having stretched its lead to 17 early in the second half, Wisconsin fell victim to a stunning Milwaukee run that eventually helped the Panthers tie the ball game with less than five minutes to play.

During that run the Badgers strayed away from their defensive principles, allowed Panthers star Tony Meier to find his stroke and gave the 10,000-plus in attendance something to cheer about.

The run started with Meier being shutout and ended with Meier scoring all 15 of his points. He scored from distance, he scored from the low block and he scored from the free throw line.

By the time the Badgers regained their balance Milwaukee had gone on a 21-4 run that tied that ball game.

Berggren's contested 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded helped Wisconsin seize the momentum back from the Panthers. That bucket gave the Badgers a 51-48 lead, one it wouldn't relinquish.

"It was a good road test for us," Berggren, who hit 4-of-6 shots including 3-of-4 from distance, said. "To survive the run they made is good preparation for what's coming later in the Big Ten season and the rest of the year.

"It's a good learning experience. We'll learn from it."

Junior forward Ryan Evans added 16 points and eight rebounds. It was his aggressive mindset, particularly early in Tuesday's win, that allowed the Badgers to coast to a 31-20 lead at the break.

He scored 10 of his 16 during the first 20 minutes, all of which came from the low block.

"They were really guarding our outside shooters," Evans, who also blocked two shots and dished an assist, said. "The middle was pretty much wide-open. Jared and I pretty much took advantage of that."

Playing for just the second time in a true road environment, Wisconsin did something it wasn't able to do the first time around, get a road win. Granted Milwaukee probably isn't as good as North Carolina, it's still a team expected to contend within its league throughout the season.

The Badgers knew they were in for a battle and knew Rob Jeter's team wasn't going to back down, even when they were staring straight at a 17-point second half deficit.

"Rob's got a program here," Ryan said. "You come into a place and you've got to go on the road and win whether it's in your state or five states away. This is always a tough game."

Team Notes:

-With Tuesday's win, Bo Ryan improved his all-time record against Milwaukee to 11-0.

-Evan's 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting established a new career high. He also finished with eight rebounds and two blocks.

-Junior forward Mike Bruesewitz scored two points in nine minutes of action.

-Ben Brust hit his first 3-point attempt of Tuesday's game, extending his consecutive 3-pointer streak to eight. He then went on to miss each of his next eight shots as he finished Tuesday's game 1-of-9 from the field.

-Brust (30), Taylor (39), Berggren (34), Evans (36) and Josh Gasser (38) all played more than 30 minutes in Tuesday's win. Three other players (Bruesewitz, Rob Wilson and Frank Kaminsky) all played less than 10.

-The Badgers were out rebounded by Milwaukee, 34-32.


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