BOSTON – In a game that taught us that great shooting can beat a balanced attack the No. 1 seed Syracuse Orange defeated the No. 4 seed Wisconsin Badgers 64-63.
Despite arguably their best shooting performance of the entire season, the Badgers came up just short in their upset bid.
In just the first few minutes, it was clear that the primary determining factor in the outcome of this game would be Wisconsin’s ability to make shots.
With no playmakers outside of Jordan Taylor, the Badgers struck to their methodical and prodding offensive approach against a Syracuse zone that did its best to not budge.
Led by Taylor and Jered Berggren, the Badgers were a combined 14-26 from beyond the arc, but only 7-22 for two-point field goals. They even provided the viewing audience with an unforgettable stretch where they made six consecutive threes to re-claim the lead in the second half.
“We got an awfully lot of good looks and we took them,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “We don’t put a number on things, but we know some teams that played well against them, stretched them, made some threes. We could have finished on a couple more buckets inside, but we took what they gave us, and that’s how we survive.”
The approach was predictable but, in a way, irrelevant. Employing their patented 2-3 zone, the Orange were not worn down by the Badgers patience and strategy to draining shot clock on every possession. Instead, it was really just their the Badgers just finding an open shot and a comfort level.
As Bo Ryan’s club made quite the impression at one end of the court, the Orange continued to get balanced scoring at the other end and countered nearly every Bucky blow.
Led by C.J. Fair’s 15 points, four Orange players finished in double figures and did not ever appear to rely on one player or shot to propel them to victory, shooting 55 percent from the floor including only nine three pointers.
Additionally, they allowed only six second-chance points and eight offensive rebounds – tied for their lowest amount all season.
“We believe in each other. When you’ve got a team like that, no matter what, we’re capable of winning games no matter who we’re playing against or what the circumstances are in every game,” Scoop Jardine said. “I don’t think we had too many lows, but I’ll tell you one thing, we got a tough game and we won it, and we’ve been doing that all year.”
A tough game it was, but just another hurdle of adversity this team has jumped over all season.
So with no Fab Melo, the Orange are still playing. One game away from the Final Four, their approach to not needing one guy on either offense or defense appears to still be working.
With our without their starting center, they’re still the team to beat in the East.