“You don’t want to leave an in-bounder with no timeouts,” he said. “I thought we were fine.”
Whether Berggren’s presence would have made any difference is tough to say because the ball was going to be in Taylor’s hands regardless of who else was on the floor. Taylor, who had 17 points and six assists, is the heart and soul of Wisconsin’s team, the senior point guard everyone looks up to — including the coaches.
But as he searched for a seam to attack the zone one last time with a drive or a pass to an open man, the defense kept pushing him away from the basket. Finally, with the clock winding down, he backed away to clear space and launched from 25 feet.
“Honestly it felt good coming out of my hand,” he said. “When I saw it come up short it was kind of heartbreaking. It came down to them making one more shot, getting one more stop.”
As Taylor’s shot floated up short of the rim, hands from both teams reached for it. The ball was batted around until Josh Gasser finally grabbed it as he was falling toward the baseline. His desperate fling was wide left as the buzzer sounded. He ended up on the floor, not moving for several seconds. That’s when Taylor’s legs gave out on him.
Steve Kerr, who is as good a TV analyst as there is, thinks about his last college game at Arizona — a loss in the 1988 Final Four to Oklahoma — almost every day. “I’m still not over it,” he said on Thursday morning. “You work for so long and you work so hard and boom, like that, it’s over. It hits you hard and fast. That’s why, with all the celebrating and jumping around at the end of these games, I always focus on the guys who have lost. Even now, it’s tough to watch.”
The Syracuse players didn’t face that moment Thursday because they dug in and produced their best defense when they absolutely had to or face that sudden ending Kerr remembers so vividly.
Instead, it was Wisconsin that felt that searing pain.
This was a game filled with wonderful plays and true basketball brilliance on both ends. And yet the enduring memory will be that of a a 64-year-old coach and a 22-year-old kid sharing a final walk off the court together.
A quiet moment in a very loud building, worthy of the tears that were shed.
For more columns by John Feinstein, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein. For more by the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.