It took until Jan. 23 for Jordan Taylor to earn his first Big Ten Conference Player of the Week honor of the season.

Don't count on it being the last one for the senior point guard on the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team.

Taylor earned the award - the second of his career - after averaging 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists in victories over Northwestern and Illinois last week. Even more impressive was Taylor had just one turnover in a combined 75 minutes to help the Badgers (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) extend their winning streak to four games by beating the Wildcats and the Fighting Illini.

UW moved back into the two major Top 25 polls - it is ranked No. 25 by both the Associated Press and the coaches - and, more importantly, is within a half-game of first place in the Big Ten.

Taylor's not the only reason for that surge, but he's played a big part in it.

"He's the leader of our team," UW sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. "To have a guy like that on your team is just a luxury for everybody else."

Much was expected of Taylor this season after his breakthrough junior campaign. But his play has been up and down and, for most of the season, those who follow the Badgers have been trying to diagnose what's wrong with him.

Was he playing through pain in his surgically repaired right ankle?

Was the pressure of living up to his status as an AP preseason All-American getting to him?

Was too much put on his shoulders after the loss of two experienced frontcourt players, Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil?

UW coach Bo Ryan believes C was the correct answer.

"The thing that I don't think outsiders realize is what it is he was going to be in for as a point guard with a relatively new bunch," Ryan said.

"It's a different team and we have had to find different ways to get things done. And you couldn't ask for a better person to be in that position of a point guard when you're trying to do that and maintain a high competitive level. Jordan is just the kind of guy you would want, and he's done a good job of that."

Especially of late - and especially in crunch time.

Taylor is averaging 16.3 points per game during UW's winning streak. He's averaging 12.3 points in the second half of those games and has taken over late in the three close games during the streak.

During a 67-62 victory at Purdue on Jan. 12, Taylor made six free throws in the final 1 minute, 23 seconds to secure the win.

Three days later, Taylor had five free throws and a huge offensive rebound in the final minute to help UW hold off Nebraska 50-45 at the Kohl Center.

In Sunday's 67-63 victory at Illinois, Taylor scored the Badgers' final seven points. He hit a huge jumper from the free throw line with 32.1 seconds left to give UW a 62-57 lead, then added five free throws in the final 22.5 seconds.

"I just try and run stuff like we run every day in practice, and if the opportunity presents itself, then I just try to knock shots down," Taylor said. "I can still do a lot better job of that. I'm still not shooting the greatest percentage, but I'll take a win over that every day."

Taylor is the only UW player whose scoring average is in double figures in league play. He's sixth in the Big Ten at 17.1 points per game.

"We just know that we have to contribute, too, at the end," Gasser said. "We've got to be ready to score, we've got to be ready to get rebounds, play defense. But when you've got a guy like that, it just makes everything a little easier."

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