Syracuse beats Wisconsin 64-63

Syracuse forward C.J. Fair dunks in front of a group of Wisconsin defenders during the Orange’s 64-63 victory in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Boston.

Syracuse forward C.J. Fair dunks in front of a group of Wisconsin defenders during the Orange’s 64-63 victory in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Boston. Photo by The Associated Press.

BOSTON (AP) — For a 3-minute stretch in the second half, Wisconsin didn’t miss a 3-point attempt.

In the final 3 seconds, the Badgers missed one from long range that could have been the game-winner.

C.J. Fair broke out of a scoring slump with 15 points to lead top-seeded Syracuse to a 64-63 victory over fourth-seeded Wisconsin on Thursday night in the East Regional semifinals.

The matchup of contrasting defensive styles ended with Syracuse a win away from the Final Four. The Badgers headed home after coming up short on their last possession despite putting on quite a display from 3-point range against the Orange’s 2-3 zone.

“We got an awful lot of good looks and we took them,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “We don’t put a number on things, but we know some teams that played well against them, stretched them, made some 3s. We could have finished on a couple more buckets inside, but we took what they gave us, and that’s how we survive. That’s how our teams do what they do. They’re pretty resilient.”

Fair finished with 15 points — five fewer than he had in the last six games combined — on 7-of-9 shooting. The Orange scored 11 more than the Badgers allowed on average in leading Division I.

Syracuse shot 55 percent from the field, well above the 38.5 percent Wisconsin gave up this season, and the Orange were 5-of-9 from 3-point range, much better than the 28.8 percent the Badgers allowed.

All those numbers mean the Orange (34-2) will play Ohio State in the regional final Saturday with a trip to New Orleans at stake.

“I can’t tell you how good it feels to win a game like this,” coach Jim Boeheim said. “This was a great, great game.”

And it wasn’t decided until Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. Josh Gasser corralled the rebound but his toss toward the basket was off at the buzzer.

“It was on line, and I felt like I got my legs into it,” Taylor said. “I knew it was a deep 3, but it felt good, and then to see it kind of come up short was kind of heartbreaking.”

Kris Joseph, a 75 percent free-throw shooter, had missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 18 seconds to go with Syracuse up by a point, giving the Badgers (26-10) a chance at the victory.

Passing the ball around the perimeter of the zone but not creating much space, Wisconsin had to settle for Taylor’s shot.

“We were just trying to get an open shot and try and make them rotate in the zone,” Taylor said. “We did a little bit, but they did a good job of recovering to open guys there. They used the length that they have and kind of forced us into a tough shot, and it obviously didn’t go down. So it was tough. Hats off to them.”

The Badgers finished 14-of-27 from 3-point range but couldn’t make one over the final 6 minutes after a stretch in the second half when they made six straight in as many possessions.

“I think we naturally tried to move out,” Boeheim said, referring to Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone. “But you’ve got to get them off their spots. We didn’t do that for a stretch out there. But they have terrific ball movement, and they have five guys that can shoot. There aren’t that many teams like that

“I knew they were good, but I didn’t know they were this good. They were really, really good.”

Scoop Jardine had 14 points for Syracuse, while Dion Waiters had 13 and Brandon Triche 11.

But it was Fair who made the difference after not being a factor late in the season.

The 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, the Orange’s fifth-leading scorer at 8.3 points per game, was 7-for-27 from the field over a six-game stretch. The Orange had been struggling offensively as well, failing to reach 60 points three times in their last seven games.

“Sometimes you just need to see the ball go in the rim,” Fair said.

Jared Berggren and Taylor both had 17 points for Wisconsin, which came in allowing 52.9 points per game.

Syracuse reached that many points with 9 minutes to play, but there were two lead changes and two ties still to come.

“It was a nail-biter, but we made some plays down the stretch and got a couple of stops,” Fair said.

Wisconsin, which averaged 7.7 3-pointers per game and has a season high of 15, hit its last 3 with 7:03 to play when Taylor gave the Badgers their final lead of the game, 59-56.

Syracuse went ahead for good on a spin move by Waiters with 6:03 to play, but the lead was never more than three points.

Gasser made two free throws with 31 seconds left to bring Wisconsin within 64-63.

“I think that was the best game anybody has ever played against us and didn’t beat us,” Boeheim said.

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