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Finally, Sweet 16 is anything but sour for Boeheim, Syracuse

by | College Basketball Recruiting Blogger
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BOSTON -- The Round of 16 has been anything but sweet to Jim Boeheim.

The Syracuse coach was just 4-11 in Sweet 16 contests in his 36-year career with the Orange, but will appear in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003 after knocking off Wisconsin 64-63 on Thursday night.

"It was one of the best games I've ever been involved in," Boeheim said. "It's the best game anyone's ever played against us and not beat us."

After Kris Joseph missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have extended Syracuse's lead, Wisconsin had the ball with a chance to win. Syracuse guards Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine jumped Jordan Taylor after he crossed half-court, and Taylor forced up a contested 3-pointer that didn't fall. Josh Gasser's desperation shot at the end didn't come close.

No close loss for the Orange this time.

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"We wanted to get a stop," Jardine said. "We've been in that situation before throughout the year, and we knew if they get an open shot we had to come back and get a rebound because it was going to be a long miss.

"You live by the 3, you die by the 3. And today, they died by it."

Syracuse overcame 14 3-pointers from Wisconsin, including a four-minute stretch in which the Badgers made six 3-pointers to take a 3-point lead in the second half. Down the stretch, the Orange extended their 2-3 zone defense an extra four feet in order to prevent Wisconsin from continuing to knock down open shots.

At the other end, Syracuse only turned it over once in the second half and never let up offensively despite the struggles at the other end.

"Every time they scored, we scored, and we stayed within ourselves," Jardine said. "We believed in what we had to do."

The Orange had four players in double-figures, led by C.J. Fair's 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Jardine had 14 points and four assists, while Waiters went for 13. It was Fair's second-half performance, though, that bailed the Orange out on multiple occasions when Wisconsin was making its runs.

After scoring just 15 points in his last five games combined, this was a performance that Syracuse desperately needed from the sophomore forward.

"He's that offensive weapon you don't have to call a play for, but you look up and he's got 15 points," Jardine said. "That's something special. I am happy he got his powers back."

The Sweet 16 has constantly been a roadblock for Boeheim and Syracuse. They were bounced in the Sweet 16 in 2009 and 2010, and were knocked out in the Round of 32 in 2011, as a No. 3 seed. Last season, Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom hit a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left that buried the Orange.

It was hard for the players not to think about that game before and during Thursday's contest.

"Last year, Marquette had a shot like that to win the game," Jardine said. "I was happy with the contest. It's a different team, a different game. But we knew the focus we had to have."

Back in 2003 -- the last time Syracuse got past the Sweet 16 -- the Orange won a national championship with Carmelo Anthony leading the way. There's no Anthony on this year's team (Waiters does a pretty good impression at times), but the similarities are becoming eerie.

The only other game Boeheim pointed to when discussing opponents who put up great performances in losing efforts was Michigan State in 2003, when Chris Hill had 10 3-pointers. During the championship run, Syracuse went through Boston for the first two rounds, and the Final Four was in New Orleans that season.

Syracuse is starting to realize that the Final Four is in reach.

"They say history repeats itself," junior guard Brandon Triche said. "I hope it's true this year."

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