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Badgers fall just short in Sweet 16 thriller, 64-63


2012 NCAA Basketball Championship
Wisconsin Logo 1 Syracuse 64, 4 Wisconsin 63
NCAA East Regional Semifinal • TD Garden • Boston, Mass.

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1st 2nd Final
 Wisconsin (26-10) 27 36 63
 Syracuse (34-2) 33 31 64
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 Statistical Leaders
 • Jordan Taylor: 17 Pts, 4 Reb, 6 Ast, 5-9 3-pt FG
 • Jared Berggren: 17 Pts, 2 Reb, Ast, 6-7 FG
 • Ben Brust: 9 Pts, Reb, 2 Ast, 3-6 3-pt FG
 Stats at a Glance
 FG Percentage .429 .551
 3-Point FG Percentage .519 .556
 FT Percentage .583 .556
 Offensive Rebounds 8 7
 Defensive Rebounds 17 19
 Total Rebounds 25 26
 Turnovers 6 6
 Points off Turnovers 5 7
 Bench Points 13 17
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March 22, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- Syracuse will be playing for a spot in the Final Four because of numbers.

C.J. Fair put up some like he hadn't in a while, and the Orange finished with offensive statistics that Wisconsin just doesn't allow in a 64-63 victory in an East Regional semifinal Thursday night that wasn't secure until the final buzzer sounded at TD Garden.

Not that the Badgers didn't have plenty of numbers in their favor. Wisconsin's defense held Syracuse 10 points below its season average, while the Badgers connected on 14 3-pointers on the offensive end -- including six straight in a key second-half surge.

Wisconsin turned the ball over just six times against the Orange's vaunted 2-3 zone defense, held its own on the glass against a taller Syracuse lineup and got 17 points each from senior Jordan Taylor and junior Jared Berggren.

Plenty of numbers went the Badgers' way. The final score, however, did not.

"I think that was the best game anybody has ever played against us and didn't beat us," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.

 Fast Facts
• Badgers hit six straight 3-pointers in second half
• Taylor goes 5-for-9 from deep, scores game-high 17
• UW finishes with third-highest win total in school history

Syracuse shot 55 percent from the field, well above the 38.5 percent Wisconsin gave up this season, and the Orange were 5 of 9 from 3-point range, much better than the 28.8 percent the Badgers allowed.

All those numbers mean the Orange (34-2) will play Ohio State or Cincinnati in the regional final Saturday with a trip to New Orleans at stake.

"I can't tell you how good it feels to win a game like this," Boeheim said. "This was a great, great game."

And it wasn't decided until Taylor missed a long 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. Josh Gasser corralled the rebound but his toss toward the basket was off at the buzzer.

"It was on line, and I felt like I got my legs into it," Taylor said. "I knew it was a deep 3, but it felt good, and then to see it kind of come up short was kind of heartbreaking."

Kris Joseph, a 75 percent free throw shooter, had missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 18 seconds to go with Syracuse up by a point, giving the Badgers (26-10) a chance at the victory.

Passing the ball around the perimeter of the zone but not creating much space, Wisconsin had to settle for Taylor's shot.

"We were just trying to get an open shot and try and make them rotate in the zone," Taylor said. "We did a little bit, but they did a good job of recovering to open guys there. They used the length that they have and kind of forced us into a tough shot, and it obviously didn't go down. So it was tough. Hats off to them."

The Badgers finished 14 of 27 from 3-point range but couldn't make one over the final 6 minutes after that stretch in the second half when they made six straight in as many possessions.

"I think we naturally tried to move out," Boeheim said, referring to Syracuse's famed 2-3 zone. "But you've got to get them off their spots. We didn't do that for a stretch out there. But they have terrific ball movement, and they have five guys that can shoot. There aren't that many teams like that."

Scoop Jardine had 14 points for Syracuse, while Dion Waiters had 13 and Brandon Triche 11.

But it was Fair who made the difference after not being a factor late in the season.

The 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, the Orange's fifth-leading scorer at 8.3 points per game, was 7 for 27 from the field over a six-game stretch. The Orange had been struggling offensively as well, failing to reach 60 points three times in their last seven games.

"Sometimes you just need to see the ball go in the rim," Fair said.

Berggren and Taylor both had 17 points for Wisconsin, which came in allowing 52.9 points per game.

Syracuse reached that many points with 9 minutes to play, but there were two lead changes and two ties still to come.

"It was a nailbiter, but we made some plays down the stretch and got a couple of stops," Fair said.

Wisconsin, which averaged 7.7 3-pointers per game and has a season high of 15, hit its last 3 with 7:03 to play when Taylor gave the Badgers their final lead of the game, 59-56.

Syracuse went ahead for good on a spin move by Waiters with 6:03 to play, but the lead was never more than three points.

Gasser made two free throws with 31 seconds left to bring Wisconsin within 64-63.

"Syracuse just has too many athletes that can do so many things, and it's hard to prepare for that on the defensive end. You think you're getting things done, but you're a step behind," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. "So we did the best we could, and I thought we played great defense.

"I thought we played unbelievable defense for the most part."

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