MBB : SELECT COMPANY: Syracuse defeats Wisconsin to advance to Elite Eight for 1st time since 2003

first_img Published on March 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13 Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img BOSTON – The last 3-pointer would have brought Dion Waiters to tears. Wisconsin couldn’t really hit a 15th shot from beyond the arc, could it?So as Waiters flew through the air, right arm extended to contest Jordan Taylor’s shot from the top of the key with three seconds remaining, he prayed. Sixty times the Syracuse sophomore guard said he prayed to God that Taylor’s shot wouldn’t fall through like so many of Wisconsin’s attempts already had.He snapped his head back around just in time for the moment of truth, with the ball a mere inches from the rim.Waiters didn’t shed a tear.‘If he would have made that shot, I probably would have cried,’ he said. ‘I haven’t cried in so long but I would have cried if he made that shot, I’m going to be honest.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textTaylor’s final shot came up short and a putback attempt by Josh Gasser went awry, as No. 1 Syracuse (34-2) hung on for a 64-63 win over Wisconsin in front of a sold-out TD Garden. A dazzling shooting performance by the fourth-seeded Badgers (26-10) fizzled during the game’s crucial moments, as SU’s zone defense forced five consecutive misses from 3-point range to close out the game.The Orange withstood 14 3s to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since winning the national championship in 2003. Syracuse will play No. 2 Ohio State at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday after the Buckeyes knocked off Cincinnati later Thursday night.It was no secret coming in to Thursday night’s game that the Badgers had the personnel to bust Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, with five players shooting better than 30 percent from 3-point range. And in SU’s two losses this season, white-hot shooting from long range was a key component in knocking off the Orange.But the clinic put on by the Badgers in the second half was something from another world. Wisconsin hit nine of its 16 attempts, including a stretch of six consecutive makes.‘It was crazy,’ Syracuse forward James Southerland said. ‘They had one of the greatest shooting nights I’ve seen in the second half all year.’The Badgers finished the game with twice as many 3-point field goals (14) as two-point field goals (seven). But by the end of the game, they had turned into a one-dimensional team.The two guards at the top of the Syracuse zone defense and the two wings along the back line began to step out further on the Wisconsin shooters, pushing them off their spots, as SU head coach Jim Boeheim called it.With no interior threat to worry about, the Orange felt comfortable leaving sophomore center Baye Keita alone inside to shoulder the defensive load.Wisconsin managed just 10 points in the paint during the game, only two of which came after halftime.‘It starts with the guards,’ Waiters said. ‘You saw how far we extended the zone. We were not letting them shoot. Especially Jordan (Taylor). We were not letting him shoot anymore.’Taylor orchestrated the brilliant shooting stretch that kept the Badgers in the game throughout the second half, but he also led the ice-cold final seven minutes that sent Wisconsin packing.Taylor nailed a 3 from the left wing with 7:05 to go, giving a Michael Jordan-esque shrug to teammate Ben Brust as he jogged back down court following his fifth made triple of the game.It would be his last.The Badgers failed to hit another 3-pointer the rest of the way, with their last field goal coming on a tough, contested jump shot by Ryan Evans. Four different players missed from long range during that stretch, including a pair of misses from Taylor, who finished with 17 points.‘We knew if you live by the 3, you’re going down by it some day,’ Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine said. ‘And today they died by it.’But as Boeheim noted in his postgame press conference, the Badgers nearly lived. Their 14 made 3-pointers were tied for the fifth-highest total a team has ever tallied against the Orange.They copied the recipe of success put forth by Notre Dame and Cincinnati, the only two teams to beat Syracuse this season, yet still came up short.‘This is one of the best games I’ve been involved with in a long time,’ Boeheim said. ‘I think the best game anybody has ever played against us and didn’t beat us.’Yet as Taylor’s final shot was in the air, Waiters was still unsure. Sure he’d contested the shot, but that hadn’t stopped Wisconsin before.This particular closeout required more than a hand in Taylor’s face. Waiters sought help from above, and his prayers were answered with a trip to the Elite Eight.‘I think I prayed 60 times in two seconds, man,’ Waiters said. ‘It was – I’m glad he missed it.’[email protected]last_img read more