Balance key to UW success
“If everybody contributes on this team, we’re very, very tough,” said junior forward Mike Bruesewitz, one of five players who had at least eight points against the Griz. “We’re not going to go down easy.”
Fourth-seeded UW (25-9) likely won’t defeat fifth-seeded Vanderbilt (25-10) without a similar scoring effort when the teams meet at 5:10 p.m. today at The Pit for a berth in the Sweet 16.
Yet the play of senior guard Jordan Taylor and junior center Jared Berggren could determine UW’s fate against a Vanderbilt team that is strong on the outside and inside.
John Jenkins (20.1 points per game, 44.6 percent three-point shooting), a 6-foot-4 guard, and 6-7 forward Jeffery Taylor (16.3, 43.0 percent) give Vanderbilt two outstanding scoring threats on the perimeter.
Jenkins leads the nation in three-pointers made per game (3.9) and with 132 three-pointers is just two off the program record.
“I think Jenkins is as good a three-point shooter coming off a ball screen as I’ve ever seen,” said UW assistant Gary Close, who compiled the scouting report on Vanderbilt. “He has a quick release. He’s got size. He has made an incredible number of tough shots.
“They’ll make some shots that we’ve got well-guarded. We just hope they don’t make too many.”
Jordan Taylor was magnificent against Montana in all facets and he will have to make shots for UW to win.
He played tremendous defense, hit 3 of 5 three-pointers and 6 of 10 shots overall en route to scoring 17 points as UW placed four players in double figures. He added eight rebounds, six assists and two steals and looked fresh despite playing 36 minutes.
Remember that in three NCAA Tournament games last season, Taylor hit a combined 27.1 percent (13 of 48 shots) and appeared worn down.
Taylor enters today shooting just 36.3 percent from three-point range and 40.5 percent overall this season. However, over the last seven games, his numbers are 50 percent from three-point range (14 of 28) and 47.1 percent overall (32 of 68).
Asked if he was on a hot streak, Taylor smiled.
“To be honest, I don’t even think about it anymore,” he said. “At the beginning of the season I thought about it too much. I’m just trying to go out and play loose.”
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings raved Friday about Jenkins’ improvement as a defender. Yet don’t be surprised to see Jeffery Taylor assigned to shadow Jordan Taylor.
Jeffery Taylor guarded Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom when the teams met in December in Milwaukee. Johnson-Odom hit 1 of 6 three-pointers, 5 of 15 shots overall and was a non-factor in the Golden Eagles’ 74-57 loss.
“They could flip the matchups,” Marquette associate head coach Tony Benford said, “because he’s 6-7 and very athletic.”
Berggren (10.3 points, 4.9 rebounds) has improved dramatically in his first full season as a starter but sometimes is too passive on offense against physical centers.
His likely assignment today will be to battle Festus Ezeli, a 6-11, 255-pound junior who averages 9.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.
“Even when he’s not blocking shots, he also altering shots,” Vanderbilt forward Lance Goulbourne said. “It’s kind of intimidating for people coming in and driving into our lane because they know he’s going to potentially block a shot.
“For us to win going forward he’s going to have to be very dominant and I think he will be.”
Berggren did not mince words when asked about the challenge.
“He is as big and strong and physical as anyone we’ve played all year,” Berggren said. “I have to match his physical play, not back down from anything.”
If Vanderbilt can slow Jordan Taylor and Berggren loses the battle against Ezeli, UW likely will see its season end prematurely.
“I think we’re extremely hungry,” Bruesewitz said, noting UW should have gotten past Butler in the Sweet 16 last season. “We got a little taste of it last year, but we always want more.
“I think last year was a good treat, but we want more.”
Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report from Louisville, Ky.