There are countless statistics to look at, possessions to dissect, and decisions to question, but the Wisconsin Badgers’ 64-63 loss to the Syracuse Orange came down to the wire and could have easily turned in the Badgers’ favor.
The first half was a survival act for the Badgers. Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz were forced to sit for much of the first half with two fouls. Berggren was an especially tough loss, as the Badgers were +6 in point differential with him on the floor, but, in the twelve minutes he was forced to the bench, their differential was -12. The Orange shot an astounding 63% from the field in the first half and, at one point, were down by as many as 10.
Wisconsin took the momentum in the final seconds of the first half. Down 10 with 30 seconds to go, Gasser hit two free throws, then forced a turnover at the other end, which led to a Jordan Taylor layup. This sequence made it a six-point game at the break. The Badgers then came out strong in the second half going on an 8-3 run to pull themselves back to within one.
Syracuse did not relinquish the lead until the Badgers began raining three-point shots. Over a four minute period in the second half the Badgers made three-pointers on six straight possessions. The Orange held strong through the storm, as the Badgers could only muster as much as a three-point lead during this stretch.
Although the Badgers played fantastic defense to end the game, they could not execute on the offensive end. After the three-point barrage ended with seven minutes to go, the Badgers could only muster up four points in the rest of the contest. Their final possession was not impressive, as Jordan Taylor took a wild shot from way behind the three-point arc and missed well short. Then Bruesewitz tipped the ball to Gasser, who could only throw up a prayer that landed well wide.
Statistically, the game was very even. Both teams finished with 23 rebounds and 6 turnovers. Wisconsin shot an outstanding 14-27 from behind the three-point arc, but it was not enough to overcome their poor performance at the free throw line (7-12), and Syracuse’s amazing shooting percentage (55%).
Jordan Taylor finished with a game-high 17 points in his final game as a Badger, while C.J. Fair led the scoring for Syracuse with 15 points.
This fantastic game ends an unusual season for Bo Ryan’s crew. They lost three conference home games this season, which is unheard of for any Wisconsin squad. But for how unusual the regular season was, Bo Ryan’s crew met expectations in the postseason. They played one of the best teams in the country down to the wire and could have won with one made free throw here, or a different call there.
They call it March Madness for a reason. Another great season in the books, but today was Syracuse’s day.