CHAPEL HILL — Kendall Marshall has nice things to say these days about Jordan Taylor, the Wisconsin point guard who will lead the ninth-ranked Badgers into the Smith Center tonight against Marshall and No. 5 North Carolina.
But when Marshall first met Taylor? That was a different story. They encountered each other for the first time last summer, at a Chris Paul basketball camp.
"When I first met him, my first thought was to hate him," Marshall said on Tuesday. "Being that we play the same position, people are going to compare us."
Marshall, the Tar Heels' point guard, said he grew to like Taylor, who a season ago earned second-team All-American honors.
"As a point guard what I admire most is he's not one-dimensional," Marshall said. " ... And he affects his team in more than one area. Wisconsin isn't known for having McDonald's All-Americans, you know. But they have a great coach and I guess on the court it starts with a great point guard."
Taylor has been that during his years with the Badgers. And so, too has Marshall for the Heels since he took over the starting role last season.
Taylor during the 2010-11 season led the nation with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.83. For his career, he has 352 assists and 105 turnovers - a ratio that would set an NCAA record if he continues the pace. Marshall is averaging 10.8 assists this season.
The comparisons between North Carolina and Wisconsin end with the comparisons of their prolific passers. The Tar Heels like to get up and down the court, to run and to expose opposing teams in transition. They have scored at least 80 points in five of their six games, and three times have scored at least 90.
The Badgers, meanwhile, are deliberate and patient. They've broken the 80-point mark just once, and allowed just one opponent - BYU - to score more than 50 points against them. Wisconsin has held opponents to an average of 39.2 points per game but that's not the number that impressed UNC coach Roy Williams the most.
Th number is 30.5, which represents Wisconsin's field-goal percentage defense - also best in the nation.
"The most impressive thing to me is not the 39 points a game," Williams said. "Not even close. Most impressive thing is I think it's 30.5. We can go out there and hold teams to 50 points. We really can. But I don't know that we can go out and hold teams to 30.5 percent from the field."
Wisconsin is strong in areas the Tar Heels have shown weaknesses this season. UNC, for instance, often failed to guard the perimeter in its 90-80 defeat against UNLV on Saturday in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational. The Badgers excel from the perimeter, where they've made 47.2 percent of their 3-point attempts - a figure that ranks second nationally.
Wisconsin has outrebounded its opponents by an average of 13.8, which also ranks second nationally. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, struggled to rebound effectively against UNLV, and in their season-opening victory against Michigan State.
Marshall said he hadn't recently spoken to Taylor, a preseason All-American who has 35 assists and seven turnovers through his first seven games. Some things don't need to be said to be understood: The point guard who plays the best tonight will make his team difficult to defeat.