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Badger Bits: Wisconsin just a half game out of first place

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Jordan Taylor and Jared Berggren have led the way during Wisconsin's resurgence over its last four games.
Jordan Taylor and Jared Berggren have led the way during Wisconsin's resurgence over its last four games.

The Badgers have picked themselves up nicely from a three-game skid, taking four straight with two wins on the road. On Sunday, they earned their first win over a ranked opponent on the road in 11 tries, riding strong defense and a better second half offensively for the win over Illinois. Wisconsin now sits a half game out of a three-way tie with Michigan State and Ohio State atop the Big Ten.

Jordan Taylor's slow start to the season has been perhaps the Badgers' most psychoanalyzed facet of their game. He looked explosive on Sunday however, and much more confident taking off towards the hoop and drawing fouls. Over his last six games, he has taken 10-plus trips to the free-throw line four times. In the previous 15 games he failed to do it once.

If Taylor's earlier struggles had a positive consequence, however, it forced the likes of Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust, et. al, to step up their games offensively. Bo Ryan mixed in Brust effectively off the bench to end the Badgers' offensive doldrums. Rob Wilson added five points to give Wisconsin a 14-0 advantage in bench scoring.

The continued emergence of Berggren as a reliable inside-outside scorer will be critical to the team's success going forward. On Sunday, he made up for what was still a mediocre shooting performance by Taylor (5-15 FG, 7-11 FT) by scoring 10 points in the first half and playing stellar defense on Illinois big man Meyers Leonard. Berggren went 7-for-14 from the field, including 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, to finish with 18 points.

Perhaps most encouraging is the feeling that this team has not yet hit its ceiling. Namely, we still have yet to see the virtuoso performance that Taylor is capable of. He seems to be regaining his 2010 form, and coupled with his supporting cast's steady improvement, Wisconsin may be readying to steal away the Big Ten crown. To be a half game out of first at this point is more than anybody could have hoped for following a 1-3 conference start.

Monday's Links

Phil gives an excellent breakdown of the win. Recaps from the State Journal and Journal Sentinel.

Props to Josh Gasser for shutting down Brandon Paul on Sunday. He has come a way long way since banking 3's last season. Gasser ranks third in the Big Ten with a 51.1 percent mark from beyond the arc.

A wacky Big Ten has helped the Badgers crawl almost all the way back to the top of the conference.

Some more quick thoughts on the game from Jeff Potrykus.

Bradie Ewing will be contributing diary-type entries for the Wisconsin State Journal as he preps for the NFL Draft. NFL Draft Countdown pegs him as the draft's No. 7 fullback.

Chip Kelly is set to become the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccane ... uh ... err ... nope.

John Chadima was "inebriated, embarassing" according to an anonymous source speaking with 27 News Madison. While that may be true, getting drunk isn't exactly a capital offense in Wisconsin. There just has to be more to this story.

RIP Joe Paterno. Dan Wetzel had a nice piece yesterday on Joe Pa's lasting, though damaged legacy.

Bret Bielema and Barry Alvarez release statements on the passing of a legend.