BOSTON — All Jared Berggren could do was watch as the final seconds unfolded of the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s 64-63 loss to Syracuse Thursday night at TD Garden.
The junior center had hustled to the scorer’s table to check in with 15.5 seconds left, but the Badgers already had inbounded the ball. So Berggren sat in front of the table at midcourt, unable to do anything but look on as the Badgers failed to take the lead during their final possession.
“It’s a little helpless,” said Berggren, who went 6 of 7 from the field and made all three of his attempts from 3-point range to finish with 17 points to match senior Jordan Taylor for game-high honors.
“Obviously, you want to be out there helping your team, but obviously (junior forward Mike Bruesewitz) wanted the same thing. I have no doubt that Mike was giving it his all, and he had a good shot of making a play.
“There’s no saying it would have been any different if I was in or who was in. What’s done is done, it doesn’t matter. But to come up one play short and to not be in there and being able to help the team, it hurts. But what hurts the most is just knowing that it’s the end for this team and it’s the end for our seniors.”
Berggren also ended the first half on the sidelines. After scoring all of UW’s points during a 10-2 run that gave the Badgers a 15-9 lead, Berggren picked up his second foul with 12 minutes, 3 seconds left until halftime and spent the rest of the first half on the bench.
UW suffered without Berggren on both ends. Freshman center Frank Kaminsky replaced Berggren, but his lack of experience showed as Syracuse used a big run to build a 33-27 halftime lead.
“You go from a redshirt junior who has played a lot this year to a true freshman, and Frank did what he could do; he just doesn’t have the experience that Jared has,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. “That hurt.”
UW coach Bo Ryan didn’t think it was a big deal to have Bruesewitz on the floor for UW’s final possession of the game instead of Berggren. The possession ended with sophomore guard Josh Gasser missing a desperation baseline jumper after Taylor came up short on a deep 3-pointer.
“If they’d gone up three (points), Jared is the better 3-point shooter,” Ryan said. “It was a one-point game, and who’s scrappier than Mike Bruesewitz and who got their hand on the ball at the end? It worked out OK. We were fine with it. There wasn’t any panic.”
Ryan could have used his final timeout to put Berggren in the game, but he chose to save it in case the Badgers needed it in the closing seconds.
“We had already called what we were going to run at the other end,” Ryan said. “We had just run the same ‘horns’ action for several good looks, and that’s what we had called. So we had what we were going to run. If I had used a timeout, I wouldn’t have called anything differently.”
Guards on the attack
One problem UW had the entire game was stopping Syracuse’s penetration, especially by guards Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters.
The threesome combined for 38 points on 15-for-26 shooting, but the most telling statistic regarding the Orange’s ability to get to the rim was that they had only five assists on their 27 baskets.
“They space out like an NBA team and they’ve got NBA-caliber guards,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to guard and they can make moves in tight spaces, but I think for the most part we did a decent job. It got away from us from time to time, but that’s why they lost only twice all year.”
One thing UW had particular trouble stopping was the high pick-and-roll. Syracuse called that play almost every time down the floor, one reason it shot 55.1 percent for the game.
“They kept finding ways to score off that (high pick), whether it was coming off and hitting a 3 or a floater in the lane or dumping it off to someone else,” Gasser said. “Everyone was ready to score. Everyone was hot for them, it seemed like. That’s tough to cover. You’ve got to pick your poison.
“We just knew we needed to get stops and we just didn’t get enough of them. They were in a rhythm the whole game and we couldn’t get them out of it because they’re so talented and they finished so well. ... They were making tough shots look pretty easy.”
Gard mum on future
Gard’s name has been mentioned with the head coaching opening at Southern Illinois, but he said he had been too busy with his current job to think about the future.
“The focus was everything with this group,” Gard said. “We’ll just see what happens.”
Gard has been an assistant under Ryan for 19 seasons, including stops at UW-Platteville and UW-Milwaukee.
Four of Ryan’s former assistants at UW have gone on to become head coaches at Division I programs. Tony Bennett is at Virginia after a stop at Washington State, Rob Jeter is at UW-Milwaukee, Saul Phillips is at North Dakota State and Howard Moore is at Illinois-Chicago.
Gard, 41, was in the running for the UW-Green Bay head coaching vacancy two years ago and was disappointed when he was bypassed for the job. UW-Green Bay athletic director Ken Bothof chose former Phoenix assistant Brian Wardle over Gard and others.
A native of Cobb in southwest Wisconsin, Gard was offered the head coaching job at Toledo in 2007 but turned it down. The following year, Army inquired about Gard.
Southern Illinois fired Chris Lowery on March 2 after eight seasons. The Salukis advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2007 but haven’t been back to the NCAA tournament since and went 8-23 this season.
A report surfaced earlier this week that former Illinois coach Bruce Weber had been offered the job at Southern Illinois.
— Tom Oates contributed to this story.