NEW YORK – With 4 seconds left in overtime, Chris Chiozza took off, hoping to get to the hoop or find an open man. Instead, the Florida point guard stopped short right at the 3-point line and let fly with a shot that will go down in Gators’ history.
Chiozza’s 3-pointer swished in at the buzzer in to give Florida an 84-83 victory against Wisconsin on Friday night in the first overtime game of this NCAA Tournament.
Nigel Hayes had given the Badgers (27-10) a 2-point lead with 4 seconds left on two free throws. With no timeouts left, the Gators inbounded to Chiozza and he took care of the rest for Florida (27-8), setting off a celebration under the basket at Madison Square Garden.
“I was going to pass, but I was really going to the rim. But they did a good job of bumping me and slowing me down, and that was the shot I had so I had to have that one,” Chiozza said.
Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter was all set to be the star before Chiozza took it away. Showalter, a senior and former walk-on, forced overtime with a leaning 3-pointer off one leg with 2.1 seconds left in regulation as the Badgers wiped out a 12-point, second-half deficit in the last 4:15.
The fourth-seeded Gators will play South Carolina on Sunday in an all-Southeastern Conference regional final. Florida is in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2014, and for the first time with second-year coach Mike White – the former Mississippi guard who was on the losing end of one of the most famous game-winning shots in NCAA history.
White and the Rebels were upset by Valparaiso on Bryce Drew’s buzzer-beater in 1998. Does this one make up for that?
“Hell yeah,” White said. “What a neat game to be a part of.”
Eighth-seeded Wisconsin built a five-point lead in overtime, but with star guard Bronson Koenig hobbled by a leg issue the Badgers couldn’t close out Florida.
After Wisconsin’s Khalil Iverson hit the front of the rim on a breakaway dunk that Florida’s Canyon Barry got a piece of, Chiozza drove by the Badgers defense at the other end for a layup that tied it at 81 with 24 seconds left.
The Badgers put it in Hayes’ hands on their final possession. The senior who scored the winning bucket in Wisconsin’s upset of defending champion Villanova, used a spin move to draw a foul going to the hoop.
Making their fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance, it looked as if the experienced Badgers had once again found a way to survive and advance.
Chiozza then earned himself a spot in the “One Shining Moment” montage.
KeVaughn Allen carried Florida most of the way, breaking out of a slump with a career-high 35 points.
Hayes had 22 in his last game for Wisconsin.
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