As time depleted in the first half on Sunday, Purdue had opened up an 11-point lead against Penn State, who was shooting 26.7 percent from the field.
While it seemed like nothing would fall for the Nittany Lions, a high-arched heave by forward Brandon Taylor from behind halfcourt landed through the hoop, cut the Boilermakers’ lead to eight and gave the Lions energy heading into the break.
Mirroring the team’s attitude, Taylor was amped to say the least following his shot from at least 50 feet.
“I was just pumped,” the freshman said. “When you watched the game, you saw that I was just excited.”
Even though the buzzer beater was exhilarating, Taylor had more to be encouraged about as he led the Lions in scoring and rediscovered his shooting confidence.
After six combined points scored against Indiana and Northwestern, the 6-foot-7 forward was the only Lion to score in double digits in an 11-point, six-rebound performance in a 60-42 loss to the Boilermakers.
“He wants to take shots and he believes he can make the shots,” coach Patrick Chambers said. “…For being a freshman on the road at Purdue, he did some pretty good things offensively. He needs to grow over these next 14 games because he can be a serious threat for us.”
Taylor has used the 3-point line to his advantage, logging a team-best 38.3 percent mark from behind the arcamong those who have attempted more than two treys. He has also attempted the second most on the team with guard Jermaine Marshall chucking 22 more shots.
While the 3-point dagger off a pick-and-pop setup has been the shooter’s go-to, Taylor and Chambers agreed a more effective post-up game is the next step in his development.
Taylor said since he’s gained a reputation as a primary 3-point shooter, he’s drawn defensive attention from guards and needs to take advantage of his size by backing down on the block.
“[Playing with his back to the basket] will be huge in his development as a player. First of all, you have to want to be in the post, and he does… He’s got to want to take that mismatch,” Chambers said.
While he loves to take shoot threes, a post up game is anything but foreign for Taylor. Throughout his high school career, the New Jersey native used his imposing frame to his advantage at Trenton Catholic, and said his primary tendencies were to post up against defenders.
“In high school I used to be a back-to-the-basket kind of guy. So I’ve played in the post, and right now the team needs me to shoot the three, but get down in the post too,” Taylor said.
And while he played 30 minutes against the Boilermakers, that level of playing time wasn’t a trend heading into Sunday’s game due to foul trouble. He was limited to 33 total minutes against Indiana and Northwestern because of nine combined fouls.
However, Taylor maintained his composure against Purdue, and Chambers will look to find the right matchup for his forward defensively on Wednesday against Michigan State to help keep him on the floor.
“He has to stay in his stance, he’s got to anticipate a little bit better and his instincts have to take over,” Chambers said. “…I need to put him when we play man in a matchup that’s best for him. And there’s not many in the Big Ten.”