When the smoke settled Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center, two things came to a close. One, of course, was the 70-56 win by the Wisconsin men’s basketball team team over Illinois. The other was the Kohl Center career of the Badgers’ senior duo of Rob Wilson and Jordan Taylor.
“It was definitely kind of a surreal experience,” Taylor said. “It was fun to be out there in front of the Grateful Red one last time and get a win.”
Both guards left their mark on their final game played on their home floor, as Taylor poured in 16 points, three rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers while Wilson tallied eight points and a career-high two steals of his own off the bench. He also hit two early 3-pointers that kick-started UW on Senior Day.
“It feels great to come out here and get a win,” Wilson said. “That will always put the icing on the cake on Senior Day.”
The senior duo combined for nine points in Wisconsin’s early 14-2 run out of the gate that set the tempo for the game, as the Badgers never allowed the Illini to get within fewer than nine for the remainder of the game.
For Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, the team and the seniors’ were able to bottle up the emotions of Senior Day until after the team’s handling of business against Illinois.
Ryan improved his overall record on Senior Day at Wisconsin to 11-0.
“You watch across the country on Senior Day, you either get this or this,” Ryan said while demonstrating, with his hands, two high and low ends of the spectrum. “Our guys played at a high level; they stuck to who they were and didn’t get away from that. The emotion comes later, after the game is over.”
While Taylor concluded an extremely successful career at the Kohl Center, the emergence of Rob Wilson in the final stretch of the conference season may be the more important story line for the Badgers moving into the Big Ten tournament. Wilson has now scored 11, 9, 4 and 8 points in his last four games, well above the 2.9 points per game he averaged thus far this season.
“It’s really satisfying,” Wilson said. “It’s better late than never. I’m going to keep on the mindset that I can help this team coming off the bench and try to keep being consistent with it.”
Ryan also alluded to the importance of Wilson stepping up in the past few weeks.
“It means a lot,” Ryan said. “He’s recognizing things a little better. We live in a world where we have to get things done. It’s not about how you look, it’s about getting things done. Numbers tell the story.”
Bo reaches milestone
While Sunday marked the culmination of Taylor and Wilson’s careers playing in Madison, a historic mark was also reached in the meantime.
Ryan tied former Wisconsin head coach Harold “Bud” Foster for the most wins in school history with 265. To make the accomplishment even more impressive, Ryan achieved the feat in 355 games (265-99) in 11 seasons at Wisconsin while Foster coached at Wisconsin for 25 seasons, taking 532 games (265-267) to reach his historic total.
Ryan also coached yet another Badger team to 12 conference wins, the seventh time Ryan has done so in his tenure at Wisconsin and only the ninth time in school history a Badger team has reached that total overall.
Taylor and Wilson presented the game ball in a ceremony after the game to Ryan, who made a speech of his own. Thanking his family, friends, players and many others, he also quickly passed the attention over to the final senior-day ceremonies.
From his two seniors, there was nothing but praise for the coach after the game.
“I can say he’s influenced me more in being a young man and developing into a man versus basketball,” Wilson said. “He’s taught me a lot in four years that I feel like I can take on and use in my life, other than basketball.”