The top-seeded Syracuse Orange held off a furious barrage of 3-pointers in the second half to beat a tenacious Wisconsin team, 64-63, in the first game of the NCAA Tournament's East regional Thursday night at TD Garden.
Wisconsin had the ball down by one and with a chance to win, but guard Jordan Taylor missed a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining. Coach Bo Ryan did not use his final timeout.
The Badgers lived and died by the 3-pointer all night because they had to. At times, Syracuse's 2-3 zone looked impenetrable, at least when Ryan's guards elected to dribble the ball around the perimeter of the defense rather than attack it. Syracuse shot 64 percent from the field in the first half to take a 33-27 lead at the break.
But the Badgers kept the lead to single-digits in the first half with their defense. The Orange scored the first bucket of the game but struggled their way to just 11 points with 10:40 remaining in the half. But they found their rhythm later in the half, going on a 22-6 run and threatening to run the Badgers out of the building. Wisconsin hung tough and maintained a six-point deficit despite an offensive regimen that had turned stale.
In the second half, the Badgers decided to work around the Syracuse zone rather than go through it. At one point they hit six straight 3-pointers, taking a lead on the fifth one, a dagger by Ben Brust with 7:59 remaining. Wisconsin made 14 of 27 3-pointers in the game, shooting three's at a higher percentage (51.9 percent) than shots inside the arc (42.9 percent). Their hot shooting kept them in the game, though once again they struggled to get any kind of buckets in a stretch that lasted the final final four minutes.
Wisconsin's final play was a microcosm of the team's play all day. Down one, the Badgers dribbled and passed the ball around the perimeter before settling for Jordan's off-balance 3-pointer. The Badgers only needed a layup but didn't seem capable of it.
Syracuse was the best-represented of the four teams Thursday night, with thousands of fans filling the seats at TD Garden. Some of them undoubtedly made the 300-mile drive from upstate New York, an advantage of being the region's No. 1 seed. The Orange play the winner of Ohio State and Cincinnati for a berth in the Final Four.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell