NEW YORK -- Chris Chiozza hadn’t scored a bucket in nearly 15 minutes, happily taking a backseat and distributor role while KeVaughn Allen did his thing.
And then Chiozza did his thing, masterfully executing a full-court push with four seconds left in overtime, launching a buzzer-beating 3-pointer just at the tip of the arc, leading Florida into the Elite Eight with an 84-83 overtime win over Wisconsin.
For much of the end of regulation and the bulk of overtime, it looked as if Wisconsin’s senior leadership would be the difference. The Badgers, after all, were making their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, while Florida was coming off an NIT appearance, preceded by a 16-17 season.
But for all the talk about Wisconsin’s maturity, it was the poise of Chiozza and the Gators that stole the show. They looked dead in the water when Zak Showalter hit a 3-pointer to force overtime, looked deader still when the Badgers built a 4-point lead in the extra stanza.
Yet a team led by a second-year coach (Mike White) charged with replacing a legend (Billy Donovan), with little to go on for March notes, executed down the stretch better than even the experienced Badgers.
Chiozza’s game-winner was emblematic of the entire Florida team. How many times this season -- heck, this tourney -- have we seen players launch panicked hero shots, way too early on the clock, their team’s hopes disappearing in the dust?
Not Chiozza. He did exactly what you're supposed to do, taking the inbounds pass from Canyon Barry, pushing the ball hard against Nigel Hayes, who he knew couldn’t foul, and waiting until the last possible second before launching.
The ball slipped through the net and Florida slipped into an All-SEC regional final against South Carolina on Sunday.