Thursday, March 22, 2012
Rapid Reax: Syracuse 64, Wisconsin 63
By Jack McCluskey
BOSTON -- A quick look at No. 1 seed Syracuse’s 64-63 victory over No. 4 seed Wisconsin in Sweet 16 action in the East Regional at TD Garden on Thursday night:
Overview: After all the talk about how Wisconsin would solve the vaunted 2-3 zone of Syracuse, it was the Wisconsin defense -- the top scoring defense in the country this season -- that struggled to contain the Syracuse offense early. Syracuse shot 63.6 percent in the first half, including 50 percent on 3-pointers, and led 33-27 at the break.
In a wild second half, the Orange weathered a furious storm of 3s from the Badgers and held on -- just barely -- for the win. The last time Syracuse won a game by one point in the NCAA tournament was the Sweet 16 in 2003, when the Orange beat Auburn 79-78 and went on to win the national championship.
Turning point: This was a game of punch-counterpunch in the second half. It seemed that whenever one side would hit a big shot, the other would invariably answer.
So after Jordan Taylor hit yet another big 3 -- he had four in the half -- to put Wisconsin up 59-56 with 7:05 to go, was there any doubt Syracuse would find a way to answer?
If there was any doubt in the Orange, it didn’t show. Baye Keita converted a layup, then Dion Waiters made one of his own to give Cuse back the lead at 60-59.
Taylor had a chance to win it for Wisconsin as time expired, but his heave was short and the Badgers couldn’t get a good shot off the air ball as the Orange escaped.
Key player: This was a balanced effort by the Orange. Four players scored in double figures, led by C.J. Fair with 15.
Key stat: This one’s easy -- without the 3, there’s no way the Badgers get back into the game at all. Wisconsin shot 51.9 percent from beyond the arc for the game and was 9-for-16 in the second half as it rallied to make things interesting at the end.
Syracuse also shot well from 3, hitting 55.6 percent for the game. The difference was in the number of shots. Wisconsin took 27 as it attempted to rally from a double-digit deficit, while Syracuse took only nine.
What’s next: Syracuse will now move on to the Elite Eight, where it will face No. 2 seed Ohio State on Saturday night in Boston.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.