In a game that will likely be remembered for torrid offense, it was actually defense that carried Syracuse to a 64-63 win over Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.
Wisconsin shot 14 for 27 from 3-point land, making six in a row at one point in the second half. Meanwhile, SU’s offense was, in some ways, more impressive, shooting 55.1 percent from the field, compared with 42.9 percent for the Badgers.
But down the stretch, both teams clamped down on defense, as neither team made a field goal after the 4:13 mark. The teams combined for just four points in the last four minutes of the game.
“We naturally tried to move out (on their shooters),” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “You’ve got to get them off their spots. We didn’t do that for a stretch out there.”
SU forward Kris Joseph squandered an opportunity for two points in the final 20 seconds of the game, missing a front end of a 1-and-1. That allowed Wisconsin to have the final possession of the game.
Jordan Taylor dribbled around the perimeter for most of it, and wasn’t able to free himself for a good look. Instead, with 2.8 seconds left, he took a 3-pointer at the top of the key with Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine closely defending.
The ball barely hit rim, and Josh Gasser’s put back attempt sailed wide left of the basket, and Syracuse advanced to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2003.
“We wanted to get a stop,” Jardine said. “We knew it was going to be something with Jordan (Taylor) trying to penetrate or pick out to one of his shooters, and me and Dion (Waiters) just pressed up on him.”
Despite making 14 3s, the Badgers missed their final five attempts.
“Some of them were real tough shots that you can’t really do much about, but you can’t hang your head because there was still a lot of basketball to play,” Joseph said. “We had to go down and make plays on the offensive end and come down and try to stop them on defense.”
That’s exactly what happened, as the Badgers missed six of their last seven shots.
“This is one of the best games I’ve been involved with in a long time,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “I think the best game anybody has ever played against us and didn’t beat us.”
Corey Mallonee contributed with reporting from Boston.