Thursday night, top-seeded Syracuse survived a barrage of three-pointers by #4-seed Wisconsin to claim a place in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since they won the national title in 2003, winning 64-63 in Boston. The Badgers (26-10) dropped in 14 three-pointers, including a stretch of six straight in the second half, but the Orange (34-2) held their foes without a field goal in the final four minutes to hold on for the win.
SU was also proficient on offense, making over 55 percent of their field goals against a team that ranked seventh in the nation in field goal percentage by allowing their opponents to make under 39 percent of their shots from the floor coming into the game. While Wisconsin was blistering from behind the arc, Syracuse stifled them on two-point attempts, permitting them to make only 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) of their two-point shots.
The Orange opened the scoring with a pair of baskets for a 4-0 lead less then a minute into the action. Wisconsin replied with five points to take their first lead, but SU responded with a triple to go up by a bucket. The Badgers sprang into action, scoring the next seven points to trigger a 10-2 run and take a six-point lead at 15-9. Shortly after that, Syracuse posted seven straight points of their own to retake the lead at 18-17 with under nine minutes remaining in the half. A Wisconsin three put them back on top by a basket, but the Orange exploded, needing just over four minutes to make seven straight field goals during a 15-3 run. SU capped the burst with 11 straight points and held a 33-23 lead with 2:30 left in the half. The Badgers, however, would not go quietly, scoring four points in the final 30 seconds of the half to snip the Orange lead to only six points at the break.
Wisconsin hit their first two shots in the second half to get within 33-32, but Syracuse got a three of their own to go back up by four points. The Badgers were tenacious, whittling away at the deficit and tying the game at 40-40 just over four minutes into the half. SU scored the next six points to power an 8-1 burst to take a seven-point lead with just over seven minutes elapsed. Wisconsin unleashed an offensive barrage, making six straight three-point shots. Syracuse was able to hold them off for a while, but at the end of the onslaught, the Badgers held a 59-56 lead with just over seven minutes remaining. The Orange ratcheted up their game, scoring the next six points to retake control at 62-59. A Wisconsin basket clipped the lead to a single point, but a pair of SU free throws made it a three-point game with 3:50 to play. Neither team could score until the Badgers knocked down two free throws to make it a 64-63 game with 32 seconds to play. Wisconsin then committed a couple fouls to force the Orange to shoot free throws. Kris Joseph missed the front end of a one-and-one and Wisconsin collected the rebound with 19 seconds to play. The Badgers missed a long, contested three-point shot and a blind toss at the basket before the horn sounded, allowing Syracuse to escape with the win.
As had happened in their two previous NCAA Tournament games, the Orange had four players tally over ten points. C.J. Fair broke out of his slump that saw him score only 20 points total in his last six games, pouring in 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor. Fair also posted game highs of seven rebounds and four steals. Scoop Jardine posted 14 points while Dion Waiters added 13. Brandon Triche chipped in with 11 points, including nine in the first 11 minutes of action to keep Syracuse in the contest early.
GAME AND TEAM NOTES:
- Earlier in the week, Kris Joseph was named a second team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
- In the first half against Wisconsin, Brandon Triche became the 57th player in Syracuse history to score 1,000 points in his career.
- Wisconsin made 14 three-pointers on 27 attempts (51.9 percent), the most triples made against Syracuse this season. The Badgers, however, missed their final five attempts from deep.
- Syracuse made the regional finals for the fifth time in school history, including their fourth under head coach Jim Boeheim. In each of their four previous trips to the Elite Eight, the Orange have advanced to the Final Four.
- Each team committed only six turnovers, including just one in the second half by SU.
- On Saturday, Syracuse will play #2-seed Ohio State in the East Regional final in Boston. Led by Deshaun Thomas’ 26 points and J.J. Sullinger’s 23 points and 11 rebounds, the Buckeyes (26-9) reached the regional final by knocking out sixth-seeded Cincinnati, 81-66.
- The two squads have met six times, the last one coming in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off early in the 2007-2008 season. The Buckeyes emerged victorious in that matchup, 79-65, and lead the series between the two schools, 4-2.