Lucas at Large: Season of huge gains ends by smallest margin

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks
120324_MBB_Taylor_Jordan.jpgThis will serve as a final snapshot of Jordan Taylor in his Wisconsin game jersey:  Taylor politely answering all questions at his locker following Thursday's loss to Syracuse in an NCAA East Regional semifinal; Taylor dutifully staying true to his core beliefs despite the pain.

On Taylor's left is fellow senior Rob Wilson, who's looking inconsolable; his body very nearly curled up in the fetal position. On Taylor's right is junior Mike Bruesewitz, who's looking drawn and tired; his legs stretched out, his head back, his eyes vacant.

Taylor is first asked about the gamesmanship with Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine, a fifth-year senior. Taylor and Jardine were roommates at the Deron Williams elite guard basketball camp in Chicago over the summer. They attended the Chris Paul camp, too.

At the 10-minute mark of the second half, Jardine buried a 3-point shot to push the Orange into a 51-47 lead. A smiling Taylor brought the ball up and immediately answered Jardine with a 3-point hit -- one of his five triples, matching a season-high.

Acknowledging Jardine, and the competitiveness that exists between them, he said, "It's a very serious game. At the same time you've got to have some fun.

"Above everything else, I've had a ton of fun during my four years here. I wouldn't trade it for anything.''

Taylor was later told that UW coach Bo Ryan had praised him for his work in grooming Wisconsin's front line of Bruesewitz, Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans. Their development has been instrumental to the growth of the Badgers throughout the season.

Given that Berggren and Evans, in particular, had seen so very little playing time last season -- Berggren averaged 6.9 minutes and Evans averaged 11.6 while serving as understudys to Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil -- how far had they come as a group?

"Really far,'' Taylor said. "It's kind of a tough question to answer, just because I feel like they had that in them -- they just had to come out and show it. I'm sure I had a small role in that. But I didn't put all the talent in Ryan and Jared and Mike.

"That's not me. That's them working on their games hard in the offseason. My job was to try and get them the ball and encourage them -- be a leader for them. I did a decent job with that but, obviously, came up a little bit short.

"I hope that I helped them a little bit this year and I hope that I helped them move forward for next year, because they're going to have a really good team.''

All things considered, if Taylor had been given the ball and one possession -- one shot to win or lose against Syracuse, one shot to either advance his team to the Elite Eight or go home if that shot missed -- would he have accepted that proposition beforehand?

"I was thinking about it before the game,'' Taylor said. "I just had a weird feeling that it was going to come down to one possession. I mean obviously that's easy to say now. I just had a weird feeling that it was going to come down to that.

"I feel like seven-out-of-10, eight-out-of-10 times, we're going to get a score there. It's just unfortunate we didn't.  Like I said earlier, hats off to Syracuse. They did a very good job of defending on that last possession. It was great defense.

"They did just enough to win.''

Berggren was presented the scenario: one shot to win or lose. Take it or leave it?

"Yeah, absolutely, I'd take it,'' he said. "To be in that kind of game back and forth -- they made runs, we made runs -- it's a lot of fun. That's what this tournament is all about. It's about guys playing with everything on the line and giving it all they have.

"To be down one (point) with the ball in our hands for one last possession, I never had a doubt; I believed to the very last second that we were going to win that game. To see the ball not go in at the end is heartbreaking.

"Until the final horn sounded and the ball didn't go in, I was still believing and hoping and praying and wishing that we'd be playing Saturday. But that's not the case.''

UW assistant coach Gary Close, who had put together the scouting report on Syracuse, felt that Badgers would have a chance to win the game if they made at least 10 3-point shots, had 10 or fewer turnovers, and had 10 or more offensive rebounds.

That was his formula: 10 + 10 + 10 = victory.

They finished with 14 3-point shots, six turnovers and eight offensive rebounds. "Maybe a couple of offensive rebounds would have gotten us one more bucket,'' he said.

So close, yet so ... painful.

"It was a one-point game in the Sweet 16 and we were one point short -- it's pretty tough to swallow,'' Bruesewitz summarized. "We did some good stuff. We made shots, played well as a team. It just wasn't enough, at least this time. We came up a little short.''

Sizing up the UW locker room, Close observed, "There's a lot of potential in here and they (the returning players) will get better. That's what this program is all about.''

From 1-3 in the Big Ten to one shot from the Elite Eight.

That's what this season was all about.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://cstv.collegesports.com/mt5.2/mt-tb.cgi/33212

1 Comment

I am a graduate of Syracuse University and a Wisconsin Men's Basketball Season ticket holder since 1997. Last Thursday was very difficult for me, but I don't think I have ever seen a better game. Congratulations to both teams for giving us great seasons. I would love to see them meet next year in the Final Four. I that is a real possibility.

ON WISCONSIN