Before the season, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was concerned Jordan Taylor would try to shoulder too much of the scoring load.
Heading into Saturday night’s home game against Wofford as part of the Chicago Invitational Challenge, it appears the 14th-ranked Badgers have more than enough options behind their star senior guard.
Ryan said before the season he hoped Taylor “doesn’t think he has to score 40 a game this year,” and was counting on him to keep making smart decisions as a playmaker after leading the nation with a 3.83-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season. Taylor has heeded Ryan’s words, averaging 10.0 points while making 4 of 6 from 3-point range and dishing out 11 assists against one turnover.
Getting those teammates involved has sparked the Badgers (2-0) to easy victories against overmatched opponents. Wisconsin has shot 52.1 percent (25 for 48) from 3-point range and made 10 from beyond the arc in Wednesday’s 68-41 rout of Colgate.
Sophomore Ben Brust came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points. He’s made 8 of 16 from 3-point range and is averaging a team-high 15.5 points after totaling 10 in 15 games as a freshman.
“We’ve got some different pieces from last year, especially with Ben shooting the ball from outside,” Taylor said. “I don’t know if we had that last year.”
That reliance on the perimeter may continue as Wisconsin’s frontcourt players settle into their offensive roles. Juniors Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans, who had combined for one start entering the season, are both averaging 10.0 points, and junior Mike Bruesewitz shares the team lead with 12 rebounds.
While the offense adjusts, Wisconsin’s strong defense remains constant. The Badgers have held their first two opponents to a combined 72 points, limiting them to 29.2 percent shooting while amassing an 84-49 rebounding advantage.
“Their defense is good,” Colgate coach Matt Langel said. “Taylor’s exceptional; he’s a special defensive player. And the other guys, you know, they do their jobs.”
Wofford (1-1) also has a road game at Bradley on Tuesday before playing two games next week in Hoffman Estates, Ill., to complete the Chicago Invitational Challenge. The Terriers tuned up for Wisconsin by beating Emory & Henry 70-55 on Sunday as Karel Cochran scored 19 points while fellow freshman Lee Skinner added 12 and seven rebounds.
Cochran leads four Wofford players averaging in double figures at 11.5 points, but Wofford is shooting 21.2 percent from 3-point range and 40.4 percent overall while scoring 59.5 points per game.
As coach Mike Young tries to retool a team that lost four starters from a squad which reached back-to-back NCAA tournaments, the Terriers will be hard-pressed to end a 16-game losing streak to ranked opponents that dates back to the 1996-97 season.
One of those defeats, though, was a hard-fought 53-49 loss to Wisconsin in the first round of the 2010 NCAA tournament in a game that was tied with 1:17 left. Taylor had nine points on 4-of-10 shooting.
The Badgers beat Wofford in the only other meeting between the schools in 2007.