- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Syracuse’s early season rush is finished, and the Orange have nobody but themselves to blame.

Shrugging off an embarrassing 17-point loss at then-No.7 Oklahoma over the weekend, Wisconsin rallied past No. 14 Syracuse 66-58 in overtime Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Orange (6-1) were undone by poor free-throw shooting, poor rebounding, and a faltering long-range game.

Syracuse (6-1) beat two ranked teams - Connecticut and Texas A&M; - last week to win the Battle 4 Atlantis and zoom into the national rankings this week after being an afterthought in the preseason.

Against the gritty Badgers, the Orange faltered. They missed five straight free throws in the final 5:23 of regulation, and that cost them a victory.

“We cannot miss free throws coming down the stretch,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We had great opportunities to keep the lead and when you don’t, when you miss those and you give the other team a chance, they’re going to make it eventually.”

Michael Gbinije led Syracuse with 19 points and Trevor Cooney had 14. Kaleb Joseph had six points and two assists in his first extended play of the year, but freshmen Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon combined for only 10 points, hitting 1 of 10 from beyond the arc. Syracuse finished 7 of 24 on 3-pointers, well off its 41.1 percent pace.

“We didn’t make the plays in the game we had to make, like converting free throws. We had some open shots that just didn’t fall for us tonight,” Gbinije said. “Give them credit, they did a good job of making us work on defense and they were patient on the offensive end.”

Wisconsin (5-3) overcame an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers by crashing the glass for a 51-25 edge, pounding the ball inside the Orange’s zone defense for a 30-14 edge in the paint, and taking advantage of Syracuse’s 11-for-20 performance from the foul line.

Tyler Roberson, the Orange’s leading rebounder at 9.5 per game, had only two in 37 minutes before fouling out.

“This was the first game we’ve really been absolutely crushed on the boards,” Boeheim said. “We need him (Roberson) to be consistent, we need him to rebound for us to have an opportunity. We played just as hard, probably just as well, as we played in the tournament, but we shot 50 percent from the 3 and we didn’t miss free throws. Simple as that.”

Nigel Hayes had 15 points and 12 rebounds, converting a critical three-point play to break a tie in overtime, and Ethan Happ led the Badgers with 18 points and 15 rebounds.

Wisconsin was coming off a 17-point loss at then-No. 7 Oklahoma.

“I think it’s us just coming together,” Hayes said. “I tried my best to be the vocal leader out there, let everyone know everything’s all right, we’re going to pick it up and turn it around. I think we did a good job responding, even though we had some adversity.”

Ironically, a turnover by Syracuse in the final seconds of regulation gave Wisconsin a chance and the Badgers capitalized.

Playing with four fouls, Bronson Koenig swished a 3 from the left corner to tie the game at 53-all with 1:21 left in regulation, and after Hayes traveled with 36 seconds left the Orange held for the last shot.

The strategy backfired when Cooney’s pass to Lydon underneath went through his hands out of bounds with 10.4 seconds left.

Vitto Brown missed a 12-foot jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, but the Badgers outscored the Orange 13-5 in the extra period.

“This is what we have,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “People started having contests - how are you going to play tonight? - because if we aren’t the biggest mystery right now in the country, I don’t know who is. The way we were throwing the ball around, those can come back to haunt you.”

A 3 by Gbinije gave the Orange brief hope in the final minute of extra time, but the Badgers sank their free throws to hold on.


Wisconsin: The Badgers are 8-9 in the history of the Challenge. … No team in the nation has more freshmen than Wisconsin’s eight newcomers. … Wisconsin is 39-10 away from home over the last three seasons, the most road/neutral wins and second-best winning percentage among major power conference teams.

Syracuse: This was Syracuse’s third appearance in the Challenge. The Orange defeated Indiana 69-52 in 2013 and lost 66-63 at Michigan last year. … Gbinije is 24 of 47 (51 percent) on 3-pointers.

FRESHMEN FALTER: Syracuse’s Richardson was 3 for 11 from the floor, 1 of 7 from long range, and 1 for 3 on free throws after averaging 13.8 points in the first six games. Lydon was 2 for 6 and missed all three 3-pointers he attempted after hitting 10 of 17 prior to the game.

IT’S ON ME: Syracuse now travels to play archrival Georgetown on Saturday, and Boeheim shook his head at the thought: “This whole scheduling thing is my fault,” he said. “You cannot go to the tournament like we did, come home and play Wisconsin, go play Georgetown. That puts the players in a terrible position, and we’ll just have to play our way through it. Horrific scheduling.”


Wisconsin hosts Temple on Saturday.

Syracuse is at Georgetown on Saturday.


AP College Basketball Website: www.collegebasketball.ap.org


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