One of the biggest mysteries of this year’s NCAA tournament will likely be the fact that Wisconsin lost a game in which they made 14 3-pointers.
Jordan Taylor couldn’t get the most important attempt to fall however, resulting in a 64-63 win for No. 1 seed Syracuse.
So, how did the Badgers end up losing the game? A look at their defense would reveal the biggest reason why.
Syracuse managed to shoot 55.1% from the field, a far cry from the percentages put up by Montana (38.3%) and Vanderbilt (43.5%) in Wisconsin’s two wins in Albuquerque.
Per the shot chart offered by CBSSports.com Syracuse finished the game with ten layups and two dunks, meaning that at least 12 of their 27 made field goals were scored in the paint. Syracuse would outscore Wisconsin 30-10 in the paint.
“Everybody knows they’re an explosive offensive team,” said Taylor. “We were just really trying to get stops and find a way to get stops. They did good job of getting in the lane, and they just got one more stop and one more score than we did.”
Syracuse was also economical with their attempts from beyond the arc, taking just nine and making five. Syracuse averages 18 3-point attempts per game on the season, making just six.
Watching a team knock down three after three like Wisconsin did (they made 8 of 9 at one point in the second half) can seduce less disciplined teams into a shootout, but Jim Boeheim’s team stayed the course and it paid off.
It also helped Syracuse to have C.J. Fair, who had struggled in the role of starter both in the NCAA tournament as well as in the three games that center Fab Melo missed during the regular season.
In the five games he started before tonight Fair made 8 of 29 shots from the field, averaging just 5.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Against Wisconsin Fair made 7 of 9 from the field, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
“Today he was able to give us some scoring, and when he’s giving us scoring, we’re hard to beat,” said Syracuse point guard Scoop Jardine. “He’s that offensive weapon that you don’t have to call a play for, but you look up and he’s got 15 points.
“That’s something special with a kid like that. So I am happy he got his powers back and we can go into the Elite 8.”
Put those two factors together and there’s the reason why a team that made 14 3-pointers fell one point short.