Instant Analysis: Chiozza’s three at buzzer sends Florida to Elite Eight

Landon Watnick, Beat Writer
Inside the Gators
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What a game.

In a contest that saw all sorts of momentum swings, junior point guard Chris Chiozza emerged as the hero as his three-point runner at the buzzer sent No. 4 seed Florida (27-8, 14-4 SEC) to its fifth Elite Eight in the past seven years with an 84-83 overtime victory against No. 8 seed Wisconsin (27-10, 12-6 Big Ten) late Friday night in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Sophomore shooting guard KeVaughn Allen led the way with 35 points, as Florida shook off a poor start and pieced together a miraculous finish after seeing a 12-point lead evaporate late in regulation. Florida will square off against No. 7 seed South Carolina on Sunday afternoon for a spot in the Final Four.

Instant Analysis now takes a closer look at Florida’s huge victory.

WHAT A PLAY: We normally start these IAs with our “It Was Over When” segment, but too bad. Extenuating circumstances.

With four seconds remaining, Wisconsin leading by two and Florida without any timeouts following Nigel Hayes’ two made free throws, Canyon Barry inbounded the basketball to Chiozza, who raced down the court and with just a second left on the clock released a three while in motion at the top of the key. The shot swished, and Chiozza’s teammates surrounded him in celebration as Florida pulled off the stunning finish.

"I just tried to get down the court as fast as I can and get a good look," Chiozza said.

Chiozza's three-point basket will go down as one of the greatest in Florida's men's basketball history and one of the most exciting of this NCAA Tournament. And yes - a player with the nickname "Cheese" beat Wisconsin.

THE LEAD-UP: After a shaky first 10 minutes to the game where they struggled to defend the interior and the perimeter, Florida eventually settled down on both ends of the floor and evened the score with Wisconsin. A late first-half scoring charge by Allen helped the Gators to a 34-32 advantage at halftime.

That lead eventually grew to 51-41 with 14:53 to go, but Wisconsin responded with a 12-1 run over a span of roughly four and a half minutes. However, the Gators would respond with a 9-0 run of their own and would see their lead increase to 68-56 with 5:23 to go.

Florida's advantage would soon disappear, however, as the Gators went without a basket in roughly the last six minutes of regulation. Wisconsin gradually clawed back into the game and found itself down 72-69 with 44 seconds left after Ethan Happ's layup. Kevarrius Hayes turned it over on the next possession, and then Wisconsin called a timeout with 6.5 seconds left after Bronson Koenig dealt with pain in his leg.

Instead of fouling Wisconsin, Mike White opted to let the Badgers take a final shot. It turned out to be a miraculous runner three by Wisconsin guard Zak Showalter, who tied the game up at 72-72 and sent it to overtime after Florida couldn't get a look on a full-court heave.

Wisconsin got to the line frequently throughout overtime, often with Nigel Hayes. The Badgers would take a 78-73 lead with 1:40 to go, but Barry responded with a layup. After Showalter knocked down two attempts from the charity stripe, Allen drove to the hole and scored. Barry would then foul Happ, who missed the front end of a one-and-one, and then Barry was fouled and converted on both of his free throws.

Barry continued his impressive play in overtime with a chase-down block on Khalil Iverson with 34 seconds to go, leading to a layup by Chiozza on the other end to tie it up at 81-81.

With 24 seconds remaining, Wisconsin wasted out the clock and then Nigel Hayes drew a foul on Justin Leon on a drive to the rim. Hayes knocked down both free throws, leaving Florida to inbound the ball from full court without any timeouts with four seconds to go.

From there, the rest was history.

HE STOLE THE SHOW: Chiozza's buzzer-beating three was incredible, but the standout Friday night was Allen, who finished with a career-best 35 points on 11-of-24 shooting (4-of-12 from three) and a 9-of-10 clip from the foul line. His 35 points set a school NCAA Tournament, surpassing Kenny Boynton's 27 points against BYU in 2010. He also surpassed his previous collegiate scoring best, a 32-point outing against FSU back in 2015.

Allen may have scored half as many points as Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker did Friday night, but at least his team pulled out the win.

THESE STATS DON'T LIE: The big storyline heading into Friday night was how Florida would handle Wisconsin's talented frontcourt - especially without John Egbunu (torn ACL). Well, the Gators were out-rebounded only 36-34 and outscored in the paint only 34-30. Bench points were important, as Florida's bench outscored Wisconsin's 20-3. The Gators committed just 12 turnovers to the Badgers' 16, as Florida outscored Wisconsin on points off turnovers 2o-14.

THE BOTTOM LINE: This will go down as one of the most memorable games Florida has ever played in March Madness. Although it was an imperfect performance by the Gators, who rode momentum at certain points but went cold at others, White's group managed to pull out a quality win - although by the skin of their teeth - against an veteran, experienced Wisconsin team. Florida almost was sent home packing after leading by double digits, but all that matters now is that the Gators are Elite Eight bound. This was a circus of a game, but the Gators must not revel in this win for too long - a matchup against the Gamecocks is fewer than 48 hours away.

NEXT UP: No. 4 seed Florida will square off against No. 7 seed South Carolina for the third time this season when both squads play Sunday at 2:20 p.m. ET in Madison Square Garden in a matchup that will air on CBS. The winner will advance to the Final Four. Florida is 1-1 against South Carolina this season, losing on the road in January and then winning in the O’Dome in February. The Gamecocks are fresh off of upset victories against No. 2 seed Duke (88-81) last weekend and No. 3 seed Baylor (70-50) on Friday night.

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