BOSTON—Jordan Taylor thought the shot felt good coming off his hand.
Never mind the fact that he was several feet beyond the line or that he was not able to step into it or that it was well contested.
“It was on line,” Taylor said. “I felt like I got my legs into it. I know it was a deep three, but it felt good.”
When the ball fell short of the hoop with under four seconds to play, junior forward Mike Bruesewitz got a hand on it, a mad dash ensued and sophomore guard Josh Gasser flipped a no-look shot towards the rim that fell harmlessly. Buzzer. Ballgame. Season over. In maybe the most intense NCAA tournament game this year, the Badgers (26-10) came within a point of advancing to the Elite Eight, only to fall to the East Region’s top-seeded Orange (34-2).
Taylor led a tremendous second-half comeback in the face of Syracuse’ vaunted 2-3 zone defense and an ultra-athletic offense. He finished with a game-high 17 points, including 12 in the second half—all of which came from behind the arc.
As a team, the Badgers hit 14-of-27 threes, keeping up with a Syracuse team that threatened to run away with the game in the first half.
After scoring 10 of UW’s first 15 points, redshirt junior forward Jared Berggren picked up his second foul just eight minutes into the game. He had just made a three to extend the Badgers’ lead to 15-9.
UW struggled to generate movement on offense with Berggren and Bruesewitz—who also picked up two early fouls—on the bench for extended minutes, and Syracuse used a 25-8 run to take a 33-23 lead late in the half. The Orange shot a blistering 63.3 percent (14-22) from the field in the first half and finished the game at 55.1 (27-49), using explosive guard play to create looks around the rim.
“They space out like an NBA team and they have NBA-caliber guards,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to guard, they can make moves in tight spaces.”
Even when the Badgers contested shots, when Syracuse needed them to drop, they did.
“We did a decent job contesting and forcing tougher shots but they just made it look easy,” Gasser said.
Behind the second-half effort of Taylor, the Badgers led as late as the 6:37 mark. The program’s seventh leading scorer of all time (1,533 points) smiled every time he brought the ball up the floor as he tried to will the team to Saturday.
“This is obviously a very serious game but at the same time you have to have some fun,” he said. “Above anything else I’ve had a ton of fun in my four years here and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
“Starting five to the last guy on the bench, we’ve got guys that work hard and play hard and play for each other,” Bruesewitz said. “When you have 17 guys that do that, it’s what you get to see.”
Leading 64-63 with 19 seconds left, Syracuse’ senior forward Kris Joseph (7 points, 3-8 FG) missed the front end of a one-and-one. It appeared that Berggren tried to check in, but too late. The Badgers had a timeout, but Ryan elected not to take it.
“I never leave an in-bounder without a time-out,” Ryan said. “You’ve always got to give your point guard one, you’ve got to give your players one. We already had called what we were going to run at the other end.”
Taylor tried to penetrate left, was rebuffed and found fellow senior Rob Wilson before taking the ball back and putting up the final shot of his career.
“They get to go on and play another 40 minutes and we have to go home,” Bruesewitz said.