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(Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah guard Brandon Taylor (11) is tripped up while dribbling the ball down the court past College of Idaho player Rodney Delgardo during a game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on December 28, 2012.
Utah basketball: Now a starter, Brandon Taylor must make improvements

Pac-12 foes have noticed freshman guard’s improvement.

First Published Feb 20 2013 03:29 pm • Last Updated Feb 20 2013 11:39 pm

Brandon Taylor has proven he can play point guard at the Pac-12 level.

The 5-foot-10 freshman guard has given Utah fans ample proof of that over the last 30 days.

At a glance

Utah at Colorado

Coors Event Center (Boulder, Colo.)

Tipoff » Thursday, 8 p.m.

TV » Pac-12 Network. Radio » 700 AM

Records » Utah 11-14, 3-10 Pac-12; Colorado 17-8, 7-6

Series history » Colorado leads 23-16

Last meeting » Utah 58, Colorado 55 (Feb. 2)

About the Utes » Brandon Taylor drew the game-winning charge against Colorado earlier in the season. … Jason Washburn is closing in on 1,000 career points. … Washburn is 15th nationally in field goal percentage. … Jordan Loveridge is second among conference freshmen with 6.6 rebounds per game.

About the Buffaloes » Colorado is squarely planted on the NCAA Tournament bubble. … Colorado has won three consecutive games. … Spencer Dinwiddie is averaging 23 points over the last three games. … Colorado power forward Andre Roberson leads the nation in rebounding (11.8 rpg).

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Taylor has proven that he can and will be a part of Larry Krystkowiak’s future, as the Utes coach has integrated a large rookie class, throwing them to the wolves of the league on most occasions. Now, the man teammates call Hollywood has to take the next step.

Basketball on the major college level has proven to be a fluid situation for Taylor. As Utah prepares for a road test at Colorado on Thursday night, there is no doubt that Taylor has more responsibility. A guy who hardly played in the first two months of the season, has averaged over 30 minutes a game for a month.

Now, though, Taylor is more of a marked man. As his reputation has grown — Taylor lit Washington up for 19 points and hit Oregon State up for 21 a few weeks ago — so has the attention that he’s received from opponents.

"He’s experiencing what it’s like to be a point guard in this conference," Krystkowiak said. "When he first started getting big minutes, he wasn’t really thought about that much. Now he’s slowly creeping up scouting reports. It’s definitely an experience for him."

As teams have begun to sit on his tendencies and the things he likes to do, the onus is now on Taylor to improve in all facets of the game. There isn’t much he can do about his height. But he knows that he needs a lot more strength.

A wrist injury has hindered his normally reliable jump shot and his assist totals are still low. But Taylor possesses Pac-12 quickness. The Utah offense has been much more smooth and effective with Taylor as a starter. The fast break has been injected with life because of Taylor’s speed up the floor.

"The one thing that’s helped me is that I’ve gained confidence," Taylor said. "I didn’t know whether I could play at this level at first. Now I know and that’s helped me. I want to finish the season strong, but I know that I have to get a lot better during the summer."

Krystkowiak has been working with Taylor on the nuances of the pick-and-roll offense the Utes run. Getting him to know the line between offensive aggression and setting teammates up is a challenge.


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But one thing is becoming clear: Utah is a better team with Taylor on the floor. That continues to be one of the unlikely unfolding stories of the season when it comes to the Utes.

tjones@sltrib.com



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