Syracuse fends off Wisconsin
Orange hit 55 percent from field, attempt just nine free throws
BOSTON -- Syracuse guard Brandon Triche is glad his team has quieted the doubters.
"We knew and we believed that we could be here," Triche said after the top-seeded Orange survived a battle with fourth-seeded Wisconsin and advanced to the Elite Eight with a 64-63 victory against the Badgers on Thursday night.
The Orange advance to the East Regional final to play the winner of Thursday night's second game between second-seeded Ohio State and sixth-seeded Cincinnati for the right to move on to New Orleans and the Final Four.
"Even with [Fab] Melo. there were doubters, saying we were the weakest No. 1 seed," said Triche, who had 11 points in the win. "This was not so much to prove them wrong but to prove ourselves right."
Melo, the Orange's center, booted from the team before the start of the NCAA tournament because of academic woes. His ineligibility provided the latest chapter in a wild year that has seen Syracuse play under the cloud of the sexual abuse allegations against former assistant coach Bernie Fine, and, earlier this month, word that the program had self-reported violations of its internal drug policy, amid word the program used ineligible players over the past 10 years.
Oh, and in the middle of it all, Syracuse announced it is moving to the ACC.
But on the court, the Orange has managed to go 34-2 as it heads into Saturday's regional final. Triche said the off-the-court news doesn't affect the players. Apparently, missing Melo hasn't either, as the team is 3-0 without him.
Syracuse survived a hail of Wisconsin 3-pointers -- 14 for the game and 9-for-11 to start the second half -- and a last Badgers possession that saw Jordan Taylor jack one up from the top of the key, probably a foot or two out of his range.
"They played us tough. We played them tough. Time ran out, and we won," Triche said.
C.J. Fair had nine of his 15 points over a seven-minute stretch of the second half. He led four Orange players in double figures, and he also grabbed seven rebounds.
Taylor and Jared Berggren each scored 17 points for the Badgers, who had two 2-point field goals in the second half. Berggren was limited to 25 minutes due to foul trouble.
Wisconsin went 14-for-27 (51.9 percent) from 3-point range, 7-for-22 (31.8 percent) from 2-point range.
"I'm just very proud of my guys," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, whose team finished 26-10. "We can play with anybody in the country, and they proved that again.
"We played well enough to have this one on our side. It just didn't work out that way."
The Badgers hit six consecutive 3-pointers at one point in the second half, but the well ran dry in the final seven minutes.
Still, Syracuse's Kris Joseph missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 18.9 seconds left, and Wisconsin got the ball after a rebound scramble saw Fair knock the ball out.
By this time, though, the Wisconsin offense had gone stagnant, and Taylor, 5-for-8 from 3-point range to that point, had to put one up from beyond his normal range. Wisconsin's Josh Gasser got the rebound but threw the ball up wildly and nowhere near the rim as he fell to the floor at the buzzer.
Berggren scored seven consecutive points in the first half but missed the final 12:03 with two fouls. His absence made a clear difference.
First, the Orange delivered a 7-0 blast over a 1:28 stretch that gave Syracuse the lead. They Syracuse went on a 15-6 run that included an 11-0 explosion in less than three minutes. The Orange led by five at the half after a late 5-0 spurt by Wisconsin, which then tied the game 4:15 into the second half. The 3-pointers kept coming, but the final one, which gave the Badgers a 59-56 lead, came from Taylor with 7:02 left.