Amongst a 10-3 start and a rebirth of excitement surrounding GW men’s basketball, fueled largely by the arrival of a highly touted freshman class, it might be easy to forget about some of the sparkling play from some of the team’s returning players. If anybody had forgotten about him, sophomore guard Tony Taylor gave everyone at the Smith Center Wednesday night a loud reminder that this Colonials team is about more than its rookies.
Taylor led or tied for the lead for the Colonials in scoring, assists and minutes played Wednesday night. But his statistical dominance doesn’t tell the true story of Taylor’s big game, in which he led his team to its second conference win of the season. As GW gradually chipped away at Saint Louis’ lead, it was Taylor time and time again with the ball in his hands, and it was Taylor who ultimately drove to the basket with just more than a minute left to tie the game at 53, capping a furious Colonials run.
“Besides the points, the points sort of speak for themselves, I thought his defense was the difference, particularly on that last possession in regulation. Mitchell is a good player, he’s their leading scorer,” head coach Karl Hobbs said of Taylor’s defensive performance guarding Billiken leading scorer Kwamain Mitchell at the end of the game. “Tony had made up his mind that he just wasn’t going to allow Mitchell to get by him. I thought that was huge.”
Taylor’s emergence this season as a scorer and leader on this team began earlier this season when he went on a scoring tear over winter break, scoring 20, 10, 10, and 13 points in consecutive games over winter break against East Carolina, Holy Cross, Harvard, and Howard. On the season, Taylor has improved his shooting percentage by more than 12 percent from last year to just under 45 percent this season. Taylor attributes his sophomore jump to offseason work on his jumper and a new focus to drive to the basket more often.
“Nothing’s easy in this league,” Taylor said of the improvements to his game. “I feel that over the summer I got a lot stronger and improved my jump shot, and I’m actually just trying to attack a lot more, a lot more than I did last year.”
Taylor’s jump from wide-eyed freshman to offensive weapon has not come without some inconsistencies.. Twice this season Taylor has been held to under five points for the game, including a performance against La Salle in which he was held scoreless in 22 minutes. Still, Taylor has brought his scoring average up almost three points while improving his assist-to-turnover ratio to 2.3 from 1.6 last year.
Taylor was also quick to give credit to his teammates for much of his improved game, saying that many of his points have been the result of a strong supporting cast.
“Honestly, the coaches have just been telling me to be more aggressive, and I’m just being more aggressive,” Taylor said. “I have such great teammates that they’re all making shots and getting to the basket, and I’m just left open, so I’m just trying to capitalize on those opportunities.”
With 10 games of his team’s conference schedule left, Taylor seems poised and ready to become a leader on a young team trying to qualify for its first Atlantic 10 tournament since winning it in 2007.
“I just try to be a leader to the team,” Taylor said. “We’ve got a lot of young players, and I’ve been here before, I’ve been here last year, so I’m just trying to help out everyone.”