Now that’s how a basketball game should be played. 4th seeded Wisconsin traded blows and leads all game long with No. 1 seeded Syracuse but in the end the Orange came up victorious, winning 64-63 and ending the Badgers season. Just how good of a game was it?
“That’s the best game I’ve seen in a long time, that may be the best game we’ve played,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said following the game. “I can’t tell you how good it feels to win, this was a great game.”
“Well, I’m just really proud of my guys,” said Bo Ryan in a post game press conference after the loss. “We can play with anybody in the country, and they proved that again.”
Wisconsin ends the season with a 26-10 record.
C.J. Fair broke out of an extended scoring slump as he led the Orange with 15 points. Not far behind him was Scoop Jardine who poured in 14 points along with 4 of the 5 Syracuse assists on the night.
However no player was as important down the stretch as Dion Waiters was. He simply couldn’t miss as he added 13 points on 5-11 shooting for the game. He had 4 of the final 6 points for the Orange and if he doesn’t hit those they don’t win.
Wisconsin had a big opportunity after Josh Gasser hit a pair of free throws to make it a one point game at 64-63. On the ensuing inbounds and plays the Badgers had at least four opportunities to turn over the Orange, but after failing to get the steal with 18.9 seconds left Mike Bruesewitz fouled Kris Joseph and put him on the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity.
The 75% free throw shooter missed the front end and a massive pile of bodies piled up down low and somehow Syracuse knocked the ball out of bounds. So with just over 15 seconds left the Badgers had a ton of time left to get a good look, but that wasn’t to be as Jordan Taylor’s desperation three went off the rim and Gasser’s prayer of a put-back couldn’t even hit the rim as Wisconsin left the court the losers in the Sweet 16 for the 2nd straight year.
“Yeah, you know, it was on the line, and I felt like I got my legs into it,” said Jordan Taylor about the final three point shot. “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.”
In the loss the Badgers were led by Jordan Taylor and Jared Berggren who had 17 points each. Taylor went 5-9 from deep and as a team the Badgers hit 14 three pointers in the game.
The first half was a huge game of runs as the Badgers broke out to leads of 7 points a few times and were up 17-11 after a Ryan Evans jumper with 10:40 left in the first half. From there is was Syracuse’s turn to make a bit of a run as they took a lead at 22-20 on a fast break dunk from C.J. Fair.
At that point the Badgers responded back with a 3 pointer by Taylor to go up 23-22 with just 5:39 left in the half, but it would be the final lead for Wisconsin for the 1st half.
Syracuse would go on an 11 point run and would hold the Badgers scoreless for just over 5 minutes. With 30 seconds left and Wisconsin down 10 points at 33-23 the Badgers got a bit of life thanks to a pair of free throws from Josh Gasser and a steal and layup by Jordan Taylor to cut the lead to just 6 points heading into the half.
Wisconsin used that momentum to carry them into the 2nd half as they started out with a three pointer by Taylor and a layup by Berggren to cut the Syracuse lead to just one point at 33-32.
From there the Badgers offense went all sorts of crazy as they matched anything Syracuse had. The Badgers made 6 straight 3 pointers that was started by Jared Berggren who cut the ‘Cuse lead to 4 at 44-48 and was ended by Jordan Taylor’s three to make it 59-56 Wisconsin.
That gave the Badgers their first lead of the 2nd half and it remained tight the rest of the way. Eventually Wisconsin just couldn’t keep up with the length and athleticism that Syracuse had and it reared it’s head in the final shot taken by Jordan Taylor.
“They used the length that they have and kind of forced us into a tough shot, and it obviously didn’t go down,” said Taylor. “So it was tough. Hats off to them.”
The final play may be talked about for quite some time amongst the Badger faithful as Wisconsin had a full 15 seconds to come up with something and clearly were out of sorts offensively from the get go. Bo decided against using the one time out he had in his arsenal and let the game play out instead.
“When you have one, if they pressure, you’ve got to have your in bounds pass,” said Ryan about the final time out. “I never leave an in‑bounding without a time‑out.”
Bo continued, “We had already called what we were going to run at the other end. We had just run that same horns action for several good looks, and that’s what we had called. So we had what we were going to run. If I had used a time‑out, I wouldn’t have called anything differently.”
After a Rose Bowl were fans were left wondering what might have been the fan base is left wondering the same thing after this Sweet 16 defeat to the Orange. But just like the Rose Bowl you can come away saying those players gave absolutely everything they had and just lost to a team that had one more play in them.