The Florida Gators are headed to the Elite Eight after a buzzer-beating 84-83 overtime win against the eighth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Chris Chiozza played hero and booked the East Region's No. 4 seed a ticket to the next round with a last-gasp three-point attempt as the extra session buzzer sounded:
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However, the drama didn't start and end with Chiozza's memorable March moment.
In fact, it wouldn't have been possible had the Badgers not mounted a major comeback toward the end of the second half that was punctuated by a game-tying three from Zak Showalter with 2.1 seconds to go in regulation:
Showalter's shot and ensuing championship belt celebration drew a hat tip from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers—who was seated courtside—but the Badgers couldn't capitalize on that momentum and book a spot in the regional final.
That's because Florida swingman Canyon Barry came up with a clutch play of his own when he sprinted down the floor and swatted a dunk attempt that would have put the Badgers up four with just over 30 seconds to go in overtime:
Thanks to that effort, the Gators were able to race back down the floor, tie the game, pull off a four-point swing and revive title hopes that appeared to be on life support moments earlier.
For the Gators, though, it all started with KeVaughn Allen.
The sophomore scoring machine was in a zone all night long, and he dropped a career-high 35 points after notching 11 combined in his first two NCAA tournament appearances in an effort that showcased his true ceiling, according to 247Sports' Thomas Goldkamp:
The Badgers were efficient in their own right as they shot 50.9 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three as a team. However, 15 turnovers hurt them on a night when Florida's athleticism was on full display to the tune of seven blocks and four steals, as CBSSports.com's Will Brinson observed:
NCAA March Madness on Twitter relayed video of one of the Gators' more emphatic rejections:
Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ did their best to boost the Badgers with 22 and 21 points, respectively, but Greg Gard's offense never truly started humming with Bronson Koenig (13 points, 4-of-13 shooting) in a funk thanks to some stellar defense from Chiozza, according to Bleacher Report's Jordan Schultz:
By virtue of Friday's win, the Gators will now square off against the seventh-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks in an all-SEC East Regional final Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Those two sides met twice during the regular season, and they split the series one game apiece as each side triumphed on its own home floor.
Not surprisingly, the Gamecocks' victory came in a grueling defensive battle that saw the Gators muster 53 points. Conversely, Florida's 81-66 win over South Carolina on Feb. 21 saw Allen go off for 26 points while the Gators shot 49.0 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from three.
In a matchup that will feature contrasting tempo preferences, look for South Carolina to try to work Florida into a frenzied mess with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
After the win, Chiozza, Allen and Florida head coach Mike White broke down the dramatic win, as March Madness TV documented on Twitter:
"This is something for the rest of his life that he'll be remembered by," White said, per the Associated Press' Ralph D. Russo. "He made an unbelievable play."
On the flip side, Hayes lamented his inability to contain Chiozza with the game on the line.
"I need to do a better job of making him change directions," he said, per Russo. "He's extremely quick with the ball and he was able to put it in one hand and kind of outrun me."
"Obviously, a very gut-wrenching game," Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said, per the Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus." But as I told the team, the last 45 minutes are going to sting and hurt for quite awhile as we move forward and appreciate these (seniors) that have helped push us forward, this program forward, and it's in good hands and a good position as they exit."