It's been a frustrating start to the season for Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor, but hitting a key shot in the team's last game could provide a confidence boost.
Taylor and the 14th-ranked Badgers will go for their 45th straight home win over an unranked non-conference opponent when they host Savannah State on Thursday night.
A preseason All-American, Taylor averaged 18.1 points and 4.7 assists in 2010-11 for Wisconsin (9-2) and was expected to be a key contributor for this season's team, which lost several key members after going 25-9 last season.
Despite Wisconsin's early success - its only losses coming against ranked North Carolina and Marquette teams - the senior point guard is having a down year offensively, averaging 11.8 points and shooting 32.6 percent. His turnovers are also up from 1.2 per game in 2010-11 to 1.6 this season.
"He's had a couple games where he is just off a little bit," coach Bo Ryan said earlier this week. "Shooting wise, it's a mental thing, but he'll get through it. ... I thought he's done for the most part a great job of including everyone."
After scoring four points and missing all 10 field-goal attempts in a 62-51 win over UNLV last Saturday, Taylor finished with 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting in a 60-54 victory against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Tuesday. He hit a key 3-pointer in the final minutes to stave off the Panthers' late rally.
"To tell you the truth, I knew it was going in," junior forward Ryan Evans said. "The look in his eyes, when you know he's going to hit a shot, he had that look. I started running back the other way. I didn't go for the rebound because I knew it was going in. Him down the stretch, he's big time."
Ryan said that it was important for Wisconsin's big men to step up to take the defensive pressure off Taylor on the outside. Besides getting a career-high 16 from Evans, center Jared Berggren added 17 points and nine rebounds.
Wisconsin, which has two games remaining before opening Big Ten play at Nebraska on Dec. 27, hasn't lost to an unranked, non-conference opponent since falling to North Dakota State on Jan. 21, 2006.
That streak doesn't seem to be in jeopardy against Savannah State (4-7), which is 1-6 on the road, including a 94-65 defeat at Indiana on Nov. 19. The Tigers defeated College of Coastal Georgia 80-42 on Monday to snap a two-game losing streak.
After shooting 28.3 percent in a loss to Georgia Tech in their previous game, they had little trouble against the NAIA opponent, shooting 53.2 percent. Deric Rudolph scored 21 points in 18 minutes as Savannah State took a 42-12 lead into the break.
Junior forward Rashad Hassan leads the team with 13.0 points per game. Rudolph is second, averaging 9.1.
Savannah State is 0-9 against Top 25 teams since joining Division I. It has lost five straight against ranked opponents by an average of 36.8 points.
Wisconsin routed Savannah State 79-32 in Madison in 2007 in the only previous meeting.