ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sometimes, shooters have tough nights. The rim rattles, the ball finds too much iron, not enough net. John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor both felt that sting Saturday night.
The Southeastern Conference's top two scorers accounted for just 22 points in Vanderbilt's 60-57 loss to Wisconsin in the third round of the NCAA tournament's Eastern Regional.
During the year, Jenkins (20.1) and Taylor (16.3) averaged a lot more.
"Well, people who are going to shoot have off days," said Jenkins, who was 3 of 13 and finished with 13 points. "And it was one of mine today, unfortunately."
Taylor wasn't much better, missing 8 of 12 shots and scoring nine points on the same floor where he led Hobbs to the New Mexico state big-schools championship in 2008.
"I was hoping to get the same kind of ending I got last time I was here," Taylor said. "It was really nice to be able to come back and play in front of New Mexico fans and friends and family that I haven't gotten an opportunity to play in front of for four years.
"But this wasn't the outcome that we were looking for. We wanted to come down here and win two games. Unfortunately, they just made a couple more plays than we did down that stretch of the game."
Taylor didn't blame the Badgers' badgering, top-ranked defense as much as old-fashioned misfortune for all the errant shots.
"I think it was more a matter of the ball not going in," he said. "All of my shots pretty much felt good. They just were a little bit short or a little bit too long. Things like that happen in basketball."
No miss was bigger than Jenkins' off-target 3-pointer with 4 seconds left and the Commodores trailing 59-57.
"It was a pretty good look," Jenkins said. "... It just didn't drop for me."
Jenkins created some space between him and Jarred Berggren, but like so many of his other shots on this night, it was long, and the Badgers came up with the rebound.
"He was wide open," lamented Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "He's a great shooter, period. He's a really great shooter going left, and he was going left and he was wide open. They were afraid to switch because we had gotten them on the roll a couple times, so they didn't show out. It might have been the best look he had the whole game.
"So we ran the play, ran it to perfection. Got it right where we wanted him, and he's made so many that have caused us to win games, and unfortunately, that one just didn't go in."
Ryan Evans grabbed the rebound among a mash pit of bodies pushing and shoving underneath the basket, drawing the foul with 2.1 seconds left. Stallings wanted a whistle on the Badgers.
If the Badgers, who are headed to Boston to face Syracuse next, didn't get away with a foul, they know they got away with a rare defensive breakdown.
"He's one of the best scorers in the country, one of the best shooters in the country," Badgers point guard Jordan Taylor said of Jenkins. "So when you see a guy get a look like that, your heart kind of drops. I know my mom already bought tickets to Boston, so I was hoping that it didn't go in."
Evans sank the first free throw but after a Vandy timeout, he missed the second and the Commodores called another timeout with 1.3 seconds left to set up the full-court play for a chance to send it to overtime.
Berggren got his right hand on Lance Goulbourne's overhand heave, however, and the Badgers, celebrated a return trip to the Round of 16, where they lost last year to Butler.
Taylor blamed his bad night on picking up two quick fouls, which limited his minutes in the first half, when he had no points and just one rebound.
"When you start off the game like that and you have to kind of play spot minutes, it's tough to get into the rhythm of the game," he said. "So, yeah, it was a tough first half."
And an even tougher finish.
The fourth-seeded Badgers (26-9) were led by Jordan Taylor's 14 points and also got 12 from Berggren, 11 from Evans and reserve Ben Brust and 10 from Mike Bruesewitz.
The Commodores outrebounded the Badgers 35-30 but couldn't come up with the big boards in the final minute.
Berggren grabbed a miss by Evans with 46 seconds to go and then Josh Gasser, who was hooked up to IVs earlier in the day after waking up sick, grabbed another board with 16.3 seconds left. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1, however, giving Jenkins the chance in the closing seconds to send fifth-seeded Vandy (25-11) to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2007.
Stifled by a team that allowed just 52.8 points coming in, Vanderbilt didn't take its first lead until the first minute of the second half, on Jeffery Taylor's first basket of the night.
The Commodores actually outshot Wisconsin 43.5 percent to 41.8. But they made just 5 of 19 3-pointers, and the Badgers made 10 of 33.
After Brust's layup and 3-pointer from the right corner gave the Badgers their biggest lead at 53-44 with 6:33 remaining, the Badgers had trouble with Vandy's 2-3 zone and the Commodores went on a 13-3 run, taking a 57-56 lead on Festus Ezeli's layup with 2:25 remaining.
Jordan Taylor restored Wisconsin's lead with a contested 3-pointer from the top of the circle and the Badgers turned to defense to improve to 4-0 at The Pit. They also won twice here in 2000, advancing to the Final Four.Comment on this story
Ezeli led the Commodores with 14 points but he didn't start and the Badgers took advantage. Evans hit a jumper, a 3-pointer and a bank shot from the paint before the Commodores knew what hit them.
Behind Ezeli's 8 first-half points, the Commodores pulled to 32-31 at the break on Brad Tinsley's NBA-long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"I'm really proud of my team and proud of my seniors, especially," Stallings said. "They've given us so much over the course of their careers. It really hurts for them because they've invested so much in our program and done so much that's good and right in college athletics."
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