For the first time since 2006, Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers managed to bash the Marquette Golden Eagles at the Bradley Center.
Up six with a minute remaining in regulation, the Badgers managed to hold off Marquette's three point shooting; most notably from clutch point guard Darius Johnson.
Marquette forward Jimmy Butler made it interesting, nailing a three pointer with 20.3 seconds remaining on the clock. However Marquette's necessity to foul made it quite impossible for the Golden Eagles to remain in the game.
Late free-throws from Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor was the difference in the final stages of the contest. Taylor, notably enough, has only missed four free-throws the entire season heading into Saturday, all while being over 90 percent from the line this season.
From that point on, the entirety of the Bradley Center lost it's momentum and swagger it had maintained throughout Saturday's ballgame.
The 69-64 victory was the cherry on top of a successful start to Wisconsin's December schedule, now improving their overall record to 8-2.
Nankivil struts his stuff
Who would've thought senior forward Keaton Nankivil would've been one of the most vital parts of this Wisconsin team?
Coming into Saturday, Nankivil averaged 6.7 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks per game. Impressive stuff coming from a guy who was yet to be recognized coming into this season.
Second only to John Leuer in rebounds per game, Nankivil has proved to be a reliable source in the paint for Bo Ryan and all of the Wisconsin point guards.
Fourth on the team in points per game, Nankivil has showed major progress from last year's debacles that troubled his 2009-2010 season.
Jordan Taylor is... solid.
It was evident in the late stages of Saturday's ballgame that junior guard Jordan Taylor is Wisconsin's most important offensive player next to that of Jon Leuer.
Taylor, again, managed to be the deciding factor in the Badgers' late victory over Marquette, sinking two clutch free-throws in the final minute of regulation that inevitably sealed the victory for Wisconsin.
It's no secret that Taylor is one of the best guards in the Big Ten, averaging 15 points per game, 4.7 assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, shooting 39 percent from downtown, including knocking down an amazing 90 percent of his free throws.
Yeah, the guy can flat out play.
Taylor has racked up 20 points in four individual games this season. Each in which the Badgers came up with the victory. His average of 15 points per game is also good enough to be 11th in the Big Ten.
The fact of the matter is that Taylor remains essential to Wisconsin's hope for a Big Ten regular season title. Should he continue his impressive success, the Badgers will continue to get recognition from voters which will be reflected in the AP polls.
Attaining 21 more points Saturday against Marquette, Taylor has made a name for himself so far this season. Let's hope that continues.
John Leuer continues his authority
Since being rightfully named one of the preseason recipients for the John Wooden Award, Wisconsin's senior forward has made his presence felt.
If there's any guy we should be thankful for, it's Leuer.
Leading Wisconsin in points per game (20), rebounds per game (7.7), defensive rebounds (52), blocks (18), and three-points made (20), Leuer is the cardinal factor of Wisconsin's winning start to the 2010-2011 season.
Leading the Badgers in scoring in five games thus far this season, Leuer is an obvious part of Wisconsin's equation to success.
Third in the Big Ten in points per game (20) coming into Saturday's action, Leuer only trails that of Northwestern's John Shurna and Purdue's E'Twan Moore a fairly decent class to be included with, I might add.
Leuer's productivity and sportsmanship combo has not been seen in Wisconsin for quite a few years. However, he may lose his cool a few times before the season ends.
If there is one thing the Badgers have been able to hang their hat on this season, it is their ability to finish games. Ryan has always preached about never letting up on opponents, and this year's team almost looks like a clone of what Ryan envisioned a few years back.
Emergence from the likes of Nankivil, Leuer, Taylor and Jared Berggren have made an already promising team into elite contenders for the Big Ten regular-season title.
There is still much basketball left to be played, and Ryan knows that first hand.
However this team's overall punctuation and style is slowly starting to creep into the minds of Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue and the rest of the Big Ten. Taking notice of Bucky may be a recurring factor come conference-play time.
But for now, the Badgers like where they're heading. Each game now becomes more and more important heading into their Big Ten opener against Minnesota on December 28th.
From now until then, expect a well-coached Badger team to compete and battle for every ounce of respect they get.
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