Syracuse Survives

In what may be considered the best game of the NCAA Tournament this season, Syracuse and Wisconsin put on a show. In the end, UW's Jordan Taylor had a shot to end SU's season, but his shot fell short and the Orange advanced to the Elite 8 with a one-point win in its back pocket.

In a game in which both teams shot better than 50 percent from three-point range complete with six players finishing in double figures, it's ironically fitting that a defensive stand would determine the winner.

"This is one of the best games I've been involved with in a long time."

That's how Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim opened up the postgame press conference on Thursday shortly after his Orange defeated Wisconsin by tooth-and-nail, 64-63.

The Badgers had their chances, especially at the end.

"It was on line, and I felt I got my legs into it," said Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor of his last-second three that would have propelled UW to the Elite 8. "I knew it was a deep three, but it felt good, and then to see it kind of come up short was kind of heart breaking."

The play was won by SU after putting on defensive display against the Badgers, who had the ball with 19 seconds left in the game, with the Orange up one point. Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine extended out on Taylor from the moment he received the ball, smothering him until he could heave up a tough shot from well beyond the three-point arc.

"We believed in our defense," Jardine said. "We didn't panic, we stayed with them, and we believed in it and got the stop to win the game."

Before that point, it was both offensive units that were putting on the display. The grind-it-out game that everyone expected turned out to be a track meet combined with a sharp-shooting show.

Syracuse, who wanted to run all night long, did so on long rebounds and on rare turnover chances. The result was the guards on the roster utilizing their athleticism to get by Badger defenders for what looked like easy buckets. Waiters, Jardine and Brandon Triche scored a combined 38 points on efficient 15 of 26 shooting from the floor.

The trend allowed Syracuse to build a big lead late in the first half after UW's Jared Berggren, who scored 10 of the first 15 points for the Badgers, picked up his second foul. With him on the bench, the Orange went on a 15-3 run to take a commanding 10-point lead. It went on to close out the half on a 24-12 kick over the last 12:03 of the period.

Wisconsin showed signs of life toward the break, however, scoring four straight points to salvage a daunting deficit. The Badgers came out in the second half riding the momentum, scoring the first five points of the second as well.

With the game in striking distance, both teams offenses had their way with the opponents' usually-stout defense.

Wisconsin took to the three-point shot, converting four straight at one point on the way to reclaiming the lead at several points shortly after. Taylor and Berggren each ended up with 17 points to lead the way, combining for eight of UW's 14 made three-pointers on the night.

Syracuse kept the pace with athleticism and transition. The trio of guards continued to put pressure on Wisconsin's defense and forwards Kris Joseph and C.J. Fair worked the mid-range game.

"Offensively we played very, very well and we had to play very, very well," said Boeheim.

Fair had been mired in a considerable offensive slump, but he was back on both ends of the floor Thursday to the tune of a team-leading 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals. A first-half dunk got him going and everything came easier afterward.

"Sometimes it's just seeing the ball go in the rim," admitted Fair. "After that, I kept being aggressive and my teammates was having confidence in me.

"And coach just told me to keep being aggressive, and that's what I was trying to be."

After the explosions, both defenses settled in realizing the game would be won with clutch rotations and movement against the other. The result was zero field goals in the final 4:13 of play and just four total points (all free throws) over the span.

The difference ended up being a pair of Jardine makes from the line with 3:50 to play. Six fouls, four missed shots and two turnovers ensued until the final seconds when Taylor had the shot to win it.

Syracuse will play No. 2 seeded Ohio State on Saturday, as the Buckeyes were able to defeat Cincinnati, 81-66.

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