MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Jordan Taylor rattled off basket after basket to keep No. 18 Wisconsin from falling too far behind early. The rest of the Badgers picked up his aggressive approach in the second half.
Taylor scored a career-high 28 points to lead Wisconsin to a 69-60 victory over Indiana on Thursday night for the Badgers’ 14th straight win in the Kohl Center.
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“It was a fun night,” Taylor said.
An incredible performance, too.
Taylor’s best night so far at Wisconsin (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten) came just five days after a 22-point outburst in a win over then-No. 16 Illinois.
“He wasn’t afraid to attack and make some things happen,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “Jordan, as people are finding out, is a pretty good player. He’s been very instrumental in putting us in the position we’re in right now and we’re definitely going to need him to continue to play like that, that’s for sure.”
Taylor went 9 of 15 from the field, hit three 3-pointers and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds with four assists. His effort left a strong impression with Indiana coach Tom Crean.
“Jordan Taylor is not only one of the premier guards in the league — that’s obvious — he’s one premier guards in the country. It’s not just because he played great tonight,” Crean said. “He defends hard, he’s tough, he’s strong and he’s just a cut above.”
Taylor and Jon Leuer, who finished with 20 points for his 25th straight game in double figures, were the only offense early for Wisconsin. The Badgers had to rally from a second-half deficit and trailed for most of the first 27 minutes.
“They just stayed the course,” Ryan said. “Eventually, Indiana hit a streak there where their shooting percentage went down quite a bit.”
Indiana (10-9, 1-5) got 16 points from Jordan Hulls in the Hoosiers’ first game without Maurice Creek, who sustained a stress fracture in his right knee in Saturday’s win over Michigan.
Verdell Jones III added 15 points for the Hoosiers and Jeremiah Rivers cut Wisconsin’s lead to 54-52 with 7:14 left before Indiana missed five straight shots and committed two turnovers.
Taylor hit a jumper and added two free throws and Keaton Nankivil made one of two to put Wisconsin up 59-52, and Rivers’ layup ended the long field-goal drought nearly 4 minutes later to make it 62-56 with 3:19 to play.
“We battled hard for 37 minutes,” Jones said. “If we battle hard for 40 minutes, we win the game.”
But Indiana couldn’t get much closer. Leading by four, Leuer banked in a flailing shot and was fouled, converting the three-point play to make it 65-58 with 1 minute left and put the game out of reach.
“They just made some big plays. I thought a backbreaking play was Leuer’s play as the shot clock was winding down,” said Crean, who fell to 1-24 on the road with Indiana since taking over the beleaguered program three seasons ago. “I don’t think there’s any question these guys are close.”
Wisconsin relied on its defense to change the momentum early in the second half, too, with an 8-0 run capped by Mike Bruesewitz’s dunk and free throw to give Wisconsin a 44-42 lead, its first since the opening minutes.
Hulls put Indiana back up by a point with a layup a few minutes later, but Taylor converted a three-point play and Nankivil hit a baseline jumper that gave Wisconsin a 52-48 lead with 9:16 left.
“I think we were attacking the basket a little more and just trying to finish at the rim instead of settling for jumpers,” Leuer said. “The main thing was just attacking the basket and being aggressive when we did.”
Creek averaged 16.4 points before fracturing his left kneecap last year. He returned to average 8.3 points per game this season before another injury, this time on the other knee.
Indiana played well from the start and looked poised early to knock off its first Top 25 opponent on the road in more than nine years. Jones made a layup just over a minute into the second half to give him 1,000 points for his career, the 42nd player in Indiana history to accomplish the feat.
“There’s no moral victories,” Hulls said. “We had a chance to win the ballgame, we had some mistakes, we didn’t get the win.
Hulls scored 10 of Indiana’s first 14 points as the Hoosiers jumped out to an early eight-point lead, the biggest the Hoosiers would have for the night. Taylor hit a 25-foot 3-pointer in the closing seconds to cut the Hoosiers’ lead to 34-30 at the break, giving him 17 for the first half.
“Jordan was feeling it and we just had to get him the ball,” Leuer said. “He pretty much carried us that first half. It’s just a matter of finding guys when they’re open and finding who’s hot. The more we can do that, the better it is for our offense.”