BOSTON – Syracuse will be playing for a spot in the Final Four because of numbers.
C.J. Fair put up some like he hadn’t in a while, and the Orange finished with offensive statistics that Wisconsin just doesn’t allow in a 64-63 victory in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament East Regional semifinals Thursday night that wasn’t secure until the final buzzer.
“Offensively, we played very, very well and we had to play very, very well,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
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 second-seeded 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,” 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.
Ohio State 81, Cincinnati 66: Ohio State won the Battle of the Buckeye State and advanced to the NCAA regional finals for the first time since 2007.
Deshaun Thomas scored 26 points and Jared Sullinger had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the second-seeded Buckeyes to a victory over the No. 6 seed Bearcats.
Aaron Craft added 11 points – all in the second half – with five assists and six steals, taking charge during a 17-1 second-half run that turned a four-point deficit into a double-digit lead.
Cashmere Wright scored 18 and Sean Kilpatrick had 15 for the Bearcats (26-11).
It’s the first trip to the regional finals for Ohio State (30-7) since it lost in the 2007 championship game to Florida.
Despite just about 100 miles separating their campuses along Interstate 71, Ohio State and Cincinnati had played just once since the 1962 national title game.