The heave by Jordan Taylor was desperate and rushed.
Wisconsin, down by 1, had showered Syracuse with 14 3-pointers already, but they were looking for one more.
Taylor was well behind the 3-point line when he heaved it. Syracuse’s only option was to take a deep breath and dig in.
“Just play the best defense of your life,’’ said Scoop Jardine.
He watched as Dion Waiters lunged to get a hand in Taylor’s face.
He didn’t know he and Waiters had the same thoughts running through their head.
Taylor said the shot felt good when it left his hands, and he should have known. He had made five to that point.
“It was on the line,’’ he said. “And I felt like I got my legs into it.’’
Waiters didn’t even want to watch it.
“When I jumped, I wish I could have just stayed in the air and not even look at it, just hear the horn go off,’’ he said.
For Jardine, it all moved like a Michael Mann flick.
“As the shot was going through the air,’’ Jardine said. “It felt like a movie.’’
When they turned around, the first glimpse was of the shot falling short of the rim.
There was a scramble under the rim, but, once the dust settled, Syracuse had survived - again - 64-63 in East Regional semifinal Thursday night at TD Garden.
“‘If he would have made that shot, I probably would have cried,’’ Waiters said. “I ain’t cried in so long, but I would have cried if he had made that. I’m going to be honest.’’
Syracuse’s run to the eighth Elite Eight in school history has been long on drama. In the past week alone, the Orange lost Fab Melo, the Big East defensive player of the year, to eligibility issues, and then they were nearly bounced by 16th-seeded UNC Asheville.
They had to hold Wisconsin at bay Thursday night, taking all the 3-pointers the Badgers sprayed at them.
They got production from the usual suspects. Jardine put up 14 points and four assists. Waiters dropped 13 off the bench. Brandon Triche went for 11 on 5-of-7 shooting.
But they got a lift when sophomore forward C.J. Fair snapped out of his tournament slump (1 for 10 in the two previous games), scoring 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting and grabbing seven boards.
“We believed in him,’’ Jardine said. “We knew what he was capable of doing. With this type of team, we just need players to give effort and we’re going to figure it out. That’s what we’ve done all year.’’
If anything, the Badgers were going to heave it up. They came into the game averaging 21.3 shots a game from 3-point range. In their second-round win over Vanderbilt, they put up 33 (making 10).
After going 5 of 11 from deep in the first half, Wisconsin went on a spree in the second, drilling 9 of 16, raining on the Orange’s 2-3 zone.
“When you have four guys on the court that can shoot the ball from the perimeter - really five - it’s a difficult team to play,’’ Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “It really is.’’
Then he joked, “Probably, we should have played man-to-man.’’
Wisconsin’s Ben Brust hit a 3-pointer with 7:59 left that put Wisconsin up, 56-53, that led Boeheim to call a timeout. But with the Badgers tugging hard at the momentum, the Orange kept cool.
Waiters said, “When they took the lead, I said, ‘We’re going to win this game. Bottom line.’ ’’
Taylor hit another three with 7:05 left, but the Badgers never connected again from long range.
“We knew if you live by the three, you’re going to die by it some day,’’ Jardine said. “And they died by it today because we stayed within ourselves and made their shots harder.’’
For Syracuse, reaching the Elite Eight was its own accomplishment.
The Orange had been to the Sweet 16 six times since 2000, but the only time in that span that they advanced to the Elite Eight was in 2003 when they won the national title.
“I heard [from critics] we were able to get the Sweet 16 and not advance,’’ Waiters. “So that was another feeling, just a hard-fought win that we got today, you appreciate that.’’
In the locker room, the relief was clear.
A handful of players wore shirts that said, “By Any Means.’’
At this point, with the way they’ve managed to advance, there was no need for subtlety.
The Orange now prepare for Saturday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.