The win propels Wisconsin (26-9) into the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in the last six years and fourth time over under head coach Bo Ryan. The Badgers take on East Region top-seed Syracuse on Thursday. The Orange advanced by defeating Kansas State 75-59 Saturday afternoon.
Taylor, who scored a game-high 14 points on 5 of 14 shooting, hit a crucial 3-pointer with 1:40 left in the game to give the Badgers a 59-57 lead and end a 13-3 Vanderbilt run that gave the Commodores a 57-56 lead at the 2:19 mark of the second half.
"Coach just said to me that I had to step up and take a shot," said Taylor. "And then Josh (Gasser) with that huge offensive rebound with 16 seconds left, I can't say enough about him. He was throwing up at 3 a.m. this morning. But he did a great job coming in."
Gasser's board at that point, coming off a 3-point miss by Taylor, prevented a clean chance at a tying or winning basket.
Vanderbilt still had a chance down the stretch to steal the victory though, but John Jenkins' trey with four seconds left in the game fell short and senior Ryan Evans grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
"(Jenkins is) one of the best shooters in the country, so when you see him that wide open your heart just kind of drops," said Taylor. "My mom already bought tickets to Boston so I was hoping that we would pull out the win. But Jared did a great job of recovering there and making it as difficult as possible and Ryan did a great job down low of securing the rebound. It was a definitely a heart-stopping moment."
But the Commodores still had a last chance, in-bounding the ball after Evans' missed free throw. Berggren, who finished the game with 12 points and 5 rebounds, jumped high and swatted the ball to change its direction and deny Vanderbilt a final shot.
"We knew they couldn't run and they weren't going to throw anything short – it was going to be a long pass," said Berggren. "So coach told me to keep my hands up, use my length and try to get a finger tip on it and I ended up pretty much getting my whole hand on it for the deflection."
UW coach Bo Ryan said the game came down to plays that the Badgers were able to make and the Commodores were not.
"We were the beneficiaries of maybe a play here or there," said Ryan. "But (Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings) was right about another thing – there were a lot of 50-50 balls and we did get ‘em and that's a tribute to these guys."
Junior Mike Bruessewitz and Evans each finished with 10 points while sophomore Ben Brust burst out of a recent slump to score 11 points, all in the second half. Brust's three treys in the second half kept the Badgers in the game.
Senior Festus Ezeli came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points and Jenkins, a junior, added 13 points for Vanderbilt, which ended the season 25-11. In the first half against the Commodores, Evans scored eight of the Badgers' first 10 points and Wisconsin opened with a 10-2 cushion. UW kept the lead at eight for the first six minutes of the game but Vanderbilt would rally, cutting the lead to 15-12 on a Brad Tinsley three-pointer with 11 minutes left in the first half. The Badgers responded with an 8-2 run to take a 22-14 lead on an Evans lay-up with 7:37 left in the half.
Wisconsin would hold the lead to halftime but Vanderbilt kept it close. It looked like the Badgers would take a four-point lead into halftime after Taylor sprinted in for a lay-up with six seconds left in the half. But Tinsley hit a buzzer beating three-pointer as time expired and Wisconsin led just 32-31 at halftime.
Vanderbilt briefly took a 33-32 lead on a Jeff Taylor jumper to begin the second half but Wisconsin would reel off an 8-0 run to push their advantage to 40-33 with 17:09 left. Vanderbilt surged back to cut the lead to 40-39 two minutes later but the Badgers again found a way to respond, going on a 13-5 run that included a pair of treys by Brust to push the lead to 53-44 with 6:43 left in the game.
"Coming off the bench, coach just tells everyone to be ready and take advantage of the opportunities that are there," said Brust. "They were there today, my teammates got the ball to me and I knocked them down."
Vanderbilt would make one more run, outscoring the Badgers 13-3 to set up the final sequence.
Taylor said moving on to the Sweet 16 is an accomplishment but emphasized that he and his teammates wanted to keep the ride going.
"I think every year we take the approach that we're never satisfied," said Taylor. "The thing about the NCAA Tournament is we enjoy a win for about 45 minutes – a lot of the seniors might be done enjoying it already because we've got to get ready for a really good Syracuse team. But we're enjoying our experience this year and trying to make it last as long as we can."