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February 3, 2012

Cousy finalists to square off

MADISON -- No heroic performance against Ohio State was needed this year. At least not to get Jordan Taylor to be named a Bob Cousy Award finalist.

Taylor was notably left off the initial list a year ago, before he scored 27 points -- including 21 during a thrilling second-half comeback -- to lead the Badgers to a 71-67 upset of the previously undefeated Buckeyes. This time around, Taylor will not need to play his way onto the list after the fact as he was named one of 11 finalists Thursday for the Bob Cousy Award.

Is it nice for Taylor to be on the initial list this time, instead of dealing with questions of why he was left off?

"Sure," Taylor said. "It's cool."

Taylor has earned his spot on the list this season by averaging 14.1 points per game, 4.3 assists per game, one steal per game and posting a 3.1 assist-to-turnover ratio that ranks sixth in the nation. While his point totals are down overall from a year ago, Taylor is averaging 16.5 per game in Big Ten play.

With just 1.4 turnovers per game, Taylor has helped the Badgers lead the nation in fewest turnovers per game at 8.9

Joining Taylor on the list are Scott Machado of Iona, Missouri's Phil Pressey, Kendall Marshall of North Carolina, Baylor's Pierre Jackson, Casper Ware from Long Beach State, Weber State's Damian Lillard, Scoop Jardine of Syracuse, Matthew Dellavedova from Saint Mary's, Murray State's Isaiah Canaan and Aaron Craft of Ohio State.

"It's an honor to be listed among those other guys," Taylor said. "I don't know who's on the list this year other than Craft, somebody told me he was on it, but other than that I don't really know who's on it. Either way, it's an honor.

"All I'm worried about is Ohio State and trying to find a way to win on Saturday."

Craft and Taylor will square off Saturday at the Kohl Center, meeting for the third time. While Taylor got the better of Craft in their initial meeting last season, the second time around he was limited to just eight points as the Badgers were beaten by nearly 30 in Columbus.

As important as it will be for Wisconsin to limit Jared Sullinger on Saturday, Taylor's ability to score and create offensive opportunities for his teammates against the defensive-minded Craft also will play a big role in the game.

"He's tenacious man, he doesn't quit," Taylor said. "It seems like he never gets tired. You would think a guy that plays 35 minutes a game would get tired or maybe relax. But he's just relentless."

Both point guards are essential to the success of their respective teams. Without the abilities of Craft and Taylor, the Buckeyes and Badgers each would have much greater difficulty on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

The winner of that battle helped their team win each game last year, with home court advantage holding up in both cases. Whichever has the better game Saturday between Craft and Taylor will go a long way toward a victory once again.

"[Craft]'s their floor general. He kind of facilitates everything that goes on within their offense," Josh Gasser said. "He creates so much for the other guys and he really makes them better, just with his passing. You look at his numbers and they're not terrific, but he just has such a big impact that the numbers don't show.

"Similar with Jordan. Just making teammates better, playing hard on defense and getting loose ones."


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