It looks like Kevion Taylor is realizing just how good he can be.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore forward flashed his dominant upside at times in his first season and a half at Winona State, but he has really put it all together in January. He has grown from an often passive player to an aggressor, willing to attack the game and take it over if he needs to.
“He’s been incredible,” Winona State coach Todd Eisner said. “This is what he’s capable of doing. His personality doesn’t lend to him being a dominant player — he’s just a really quiet kid who works very hard. But I think he is starting to realize how good he can be. He is playing at a really high level, we need him to play at a really high level. That makes everybody else’s job easier.”
Taylor averaged 22.6 points in eight games in the month of January, topping the 20-point mark five times, including in each of his last four games, and set a career high for points scored twice. He earned NSIC South Men’s Basketball Player of the Week this week after scoring 23 points with nine rebounds in a victory over Southwest Minnesota State last Friday and scoring 27 points with nine rebounds and six assists on Saturday. In 12 games before January this season, he reached 20 points just twice and scored fewer than 10 four times.
“It starts with my teammates believing in me,” Taylor said. “They’re setting me up for good shots and they’re telling me to come get the ball and that gives me confidence to go score the ball. I’ve just got to stay confident.”
Taylor’s hot streak has coincided with a turnaround for the Warriors. They are riding a three-game winning streak after dropping six of their previous seven. A giant second half against Bemidji State kicked WSU into a new gear.
After entering halftime trailing 38-36, the Warriors scored 51 points after the break with 20 second-half points from Taylor on their way to a blowout 87-59 victory. They then went on to dominate SMSU, led by 23 points from the sophomore forward. And another 20-point Taylor second half helped the Warriors defeat Sioux Falls who sit just a game out of first place in the NSIC South.
“We’re just trying to stay confident through this stretch,” Taylor said. “We went through a three or four game losing streak and that was tough for us — we hadn’t been through that. We had the coaching staff staying positive and telling us to shoot the ball and just had to keep going and stay confident.”
Taylor looks like a player who wants the ball in his hands when the team needs somebody to step up. Sioux Falls fought back into a game the Warriors led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but Taylor didn’t let the Cougars take over. After scoring seven points and happily dishing out a career-high six assists in the first half, he put the scoring on his back and made a handful of huge rebounds down the stretch.
“Early in his career and even earlier this year, he had a tendency to go into a shell at times and not be a guy who is looking to be aggressive scoring,” Eisner said. “He needs to be aggressive scoring for us to have a chance. He’s starting to realize how good he is and how important he is to our success. And he’s having success. That confidence is coming from his success. He’s been tremendous and we want to continue to see him grow and expand his game.”
The Warriors (9-11, 6-8) look to keep their win streak alive as they hit the road this weekend to take on Minnesota Duluth (11-7, 8-6) on Friday and St. Cloud State (14-6, 9-5) on Saturday.
The Bulldogs are just as hot as the Warriors, having won four of their last five. They have the fifth-ranked defense in the conference and the 13th-ranked offende. They are led by Brandon Myers who averages 21 points per game, good for fifth in the NSIC, and Logan Rohrscheib who averages 11.2 points.
The Huskies feature the third-ranked offense in the NSIC, averaging 81.5 points per game and are led by the second-leading scorer in the conference, Gage Davis, who averages 23.4 points.