It had been since SU had won the title that the squad had advanced past the Sweet Sixteen, but last night with top seed Syracuse (34-2 ~ 17-1 in the Big East) taking down No. 4 Wisconsin (26-10 ~ 12-6 in the Big Ten) by the final of 64-63, the Orange did just that, breaking a three game losing streak in the third round. Now for head coach Jim Boeheim, who won his 48th tournament game surpassing John Wooden for fifth most, and his squad it’s a match up against Ohio State, with the winner heading to New Orleans and the Final Four. While both teams were able to get some sort of lead during the game it was a tight game for the most part, with the game ending in favor of No. 2 AP & ESPN/USA Today Syracuse when No. 13 ESPN/USA Today & No. 12 AP Wisconsin’s last two shots did not go in with time running out.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels to win a game like this,” Boeheim said. “This was a great, great game.”
Breaking down the game is pretty simple, while the Badgers were able to hit well from the outside, connecting on 14 out of 27 shots from beyond the arc, they could not compete inside with the Orange, who outscored their oppositions 30 (15 for 25) to 10 (5 for 12) in the paint. In the second half Wisconsin only scored two points in the lane, and none in the last 14 minutes of playing time. But SU did well from the outside as well, going 5 for 9 from three points range in this one, and are 11 for 18 in the last two games, making coach Boeheim’s team peaking both inside and out at the right time. The two teams both got 23 rebounds in all and Wisconsin won the battle on the offensive side 8 to 6, but only scoring ten points from the inside that advantage was truly not significant in the game. On the other hand you have to wonder what the difference would have been if SU’s seven footer Fab Melo would have played.
“Offensively, we played very, very well and we had to play very, very well,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Sophome forward C.J. Fair came out strong in this game, something he had not done in several games, leading all SU scorers with 15 points, as well as seven rebounds and four assists. Senior point guard Scoop Jardine also had a good game, with 14 points and four assists. While, coming off the bench, Dion Waiters added 13 points for his squad. Senior forward Kris Joseph once again was not his usual regular season self, while junior forward James Southerland only played four minutes and didn’t do anything in that time. For Wisconsin it was the duo of guard Jordan Taylor and forward Jared Berggren who poured in over 50% of the Badgers’ offense with 34 points.
Without a doubt this was the toughest game that Syracuse has played in this tournament, as well as in the whole season. While there is no doubt in my mind that this game could have gone either way, the fact is that the Orange prevailed and are now one game from heading to where most of the fan base believed they should be: the Final Four. But there is still one game left before that, where SU will go up against Ohio State this Saturday, tip off at 7:05 p.m. EST, televised by CBS, who can hit from the outside and has a presence in the middle. On the other hand, the Orange have overcome on and off the field issues all year long, won all but two games, and are still going strong, so if SU was to lose this game I doubt it will because they were not ready to play.