Syracuse survives, advances to Elite Eight
Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Syracuse survived Wisconsin's three-point barrage and a pair of potential game-winners in the final seconds to advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament with a thrilling 64-63 victory in the East Region semifinals.
The top-seeded Orange shot 55 percent from the floor against the nation's best scoring defense, but only led by one down the stretch due to the fourth- seeded Badgers making 14 three-pointers in the back-and-forth Sweet 16 tussle.
With Syracuse holding a 64-63 lead, Kris Joseph missed the front end of a 1- and-1 to give Wisconsin the ball back with 15.5 ticks left.
Jordan Taylor, who was 5-for-8 from behind the arc to that point, pulled up for a 25-footer with under four seconds on the clock and hit all iron. Josh Gasser grabbed the offensive rebound as time ticked away, and his rushed turnaround from the baseline was well off the mark.
Syracuse moved on to face another Big Ten opponent in the regional final, as second-seeded Ohio State fended off sixth-seeded Cincinnati in Thursday's nightcap at TD Garden.
"This is one of the best games I've been involved with in a long time. I think the best game anybody has ever played against us and didn't beat us," said Orange head coach Jim Boeheim, who moved past John Wooden for sole possession of fifth place in NCAA Tournament victories with 48.
C.J. Fair led Syracuse (34-2) with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters contributed 14 and 13 points, respectively. This is the Orange's first appearance in the regional final since winning the national title in 2003.
Taylor and Jared Berggren paced the Badgers (26-10) with 17 points apiece.
Wisconsin broke Syracuse's vaunted zone defense with the deep ball, erasing a double-digit deficit and going on top, 59-56 via Taylor's three-pointer with seven minutes remaining -- the last of six consecutive trips that ended in makes from behind the arc.
But the Badgers made just one field goal the rest of the way, and Baye Keita, playing more minutes due to the absence of academically-ineligible Fab Melo, began Syracuse's final surge with a putback off a Joseph miss.
Waiters followed with a lay-in off a nifty spin move in the lane, then hit a mid-range jumper with a hand in his face for a 62-59 lead with 4:48 to go.
"Every time they scored, I think we scored right back," Jardine said.
It was still a three-point game as the clock ticked under a minute, and Gasser made two free throws to pull the Badgers within 64-63 with 31.7 seconds showing.
Wisconsin was forced to foul several times before sending Joseph to the line with 18.9 seconds showing, and the 75-percent free throw shooter bricked his only attempt.
Fair knocked the rebound out of bounds with 15.5 seconds left, but the Orange did enough to force Taylor into a contested shot that essentially ended the season for the Big Ten stalwarts.
"They used the length that they have and kind of forced us into a tough shot, and it obviously didn't go down," recalled Taylor, who ended his career as the NCAA's all-time leader in assist-to-turnover ratio. "They just got one more stop and one more score than we did."
Wisconsin led 15-9 early on, then took a hit when two of its starters, Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz, each picked up a pair of fouls less than nine minutes in.
Ben Brust's three-pointer countered a quick seven-point run by Syracuse, which scored 15 of the next 18 points to jump in front by double digits.
Fair had six points during the burst, which featured a rainbow 17-footer from Waiters and a Jardine three-pointer that yielded a 33-23 lead.
The Orange converted on seven straight possessions to take control, though Wisconsin held the Big East regular season champs scoreless over the final 2 1/2 minutes to cut its deficit to 33-27 at halftime.
The Badgers made five three-pointers in the opening half, then hit three more from long range in the first four-plus minutes after the break to tie it, 40-40, on a deep make from Rob Wilson.
Three takes to the hoop by Fair highlighted an 8-1 run by the Orange, but in keeping with the seesaw battle, Wisconsin answered with six straight three- pointers.
"We got an awfully lot of good looks and we took them," Badgers head coach Bo Ryan said. "We could have finished on a couple more buckets inside, but we took what they gave us, and that's how we survive(d)."
Wisconsin, which has not reached the Final Four since 2000, also lost in the regional semifinal last year to Butler -- the eventual national runner-up...Taylor set the school record for three-pointers in the NCAA Tournament (23)...The Badgers allowed a nation-best 52.9 points per game coming in...Brandon Triche added 11 points for the Orange...Both teams committed just six turnovers...Syracuse had just five assists on 27 made field goals...The Orange defeated UNC-Asheville and Kansas State to reach Boston, while Wisconsin got past Montana and Vanderbilt.
03/23 00:02:22 ET