While the entire college basketball world was glued to the Kentucky-UCLA rematch on Friday night in the Sweet 16, the Florida Gators and Wisconsin Badgers were quietly gearing up to give us the greatest game so far of the 2017 NCAA tournament.
This was the first OT game of the tournament. This was the first game to end on a buzzer-beater. And there is no doubt that Chris Chiozza’s running three-point game-winner to lift Florida into the Elite Eight is the best moment March Madness has given us this year.
You can watch the clip of Chiozza’s shot forever, and Gators fans probably will. But to truly understand the weight of Florida’s moment, you need to take in the game in total.
Florida and Wisconsin gave us a furious comeback in regulation, a ridiculous running three-pointer to force overtime, an incredible chase-down block to keep it close, and then an identical and even more ridiculous running three to end it at the buzzer in OT.
Got all that? This game was wild and provided us with the type of drama the NCAA tournament specializes in.
Wisconsin wiped out an eight-point Florida lead to force OT
When Florida’s Kasey Hill knocked down a free throw with 2:10 left in regulation, the Gators led 70-62. Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig missed a three on the next possession, but Ethan Happ came up with the offensive rebound. Zak Showalter would get a layup seconds later, and that was the start of Wisconsin’s comeback.
Koenig made a three with 1:33 left, Happ hit a layup and it set the stage for the *first* wild play of this game.
Showalter’s running three-pointer to force overtime was phenomenal
Wisconsin ball, down three, six seconds left. Showalter comes out of a timeout and does this:
That is madness. And it would only survive as the best play of the game for less than five minutes.
Don’t forget about Canyon Barry’s block
Canyon Barry goes to the foul line with 37 seconds left in overtime and Florida trailing by four. He hits them both, granny-style of course, and watches as Wisconsin throws an outlet pass down the court.
Barry doesn’t give up on the play. Instead, he makes a game-saving block on Wisconsin’s Khalil Iverson to keep the Gators alive.
That is an amazing play to save your team with the season on the line. And that only lasted as Florida’s best play of the night for another 36 seconds.
Chiozza becomes a March Madness legend
Tyus Edney, meet Chris Chiozza. Tell Bryce Drew and Kris Jenkins to make room because March Madness has a new member of the hero club:
This doesn’t even mention the fact that Florida won a Sweet 16 game with exactly one scorer in double figures. That’s KeVaughn Allen, the sophomore guard who finished with 35 points and didn’t even get mentioned until the end of this post.
Wisconsin has had its fair share of NCAA tournament heartbreak recently, and this is right up there. At least the Badgers will always have that win over Villanova.
Florida now gets South Carolina for the right to go to the Final Four. That is not a sentence I thought I would be typing at any point of this season. The NCAA tournament never lets you down.