Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Cheese curdles Wisconsin with three to win for Gators

The guy they call ‘Cheese’ beat the Cheese State team with a shot at the buzzer in overtime to win 84-83. It was the first buzzer beater for a Gators win in the NCAA Tournament sine Mike Miller beat Butler on March 17, 2000. The smallest guy on the court hit the biggest shot of the tournament so far.

Florida head coach Mike White had to collect himself while on the stage to talk to the media after the game. He was just proud of Chris Chiozza and the fact that he knew what he was capable of in going the length of the floor and tossing up a floater from the three-point line to win the game.

“For Chris to have the wherewithal to know that he can get all the way the length of the court in four seconds,” White said still in disbelief. “He obviously utilized his speed and quickness and had tremendous composure, of course.

Chiozza was looking to pass the ball, but when he got just past the half court line, he saw that he had an open shot from three… so he took it.

“I just knew I had four seconds and I was trying to get down the court as fast as I could and if somebody was open I was going to pass it,” Chiozza said. “But I was really trying to get to the rim, but they did a good job of bumping me and slowing me down and that was the only shot I had, so I had to take that one.”

Maybe the country didn’t know much about Chris Chiozza before the shot. But they do now. The CBS announcers commented the entire game about his quickness and agility on the court. It was in full display on that final shot to win it.

“God just blessed me with incredible speed,” he said. “So I just knew that I could use that and get to the other end of the court and have time left to either get somebody else a shot or take the shot myself.

The Gators had a few spots in the game where they had to gather their composure. They got behind quickly by 11, and then moved ahead to a 10 point lead. They had a double digit lead late in the game only to see Wisconsin come back and tie it and take it to overtime on a shot by Badger guard Zak Showalter.

This experienced team continued to fight in the game until that final shot in overtime.

“Zak Showalter hit a tough shot at the end of regulation to send it into overtime,” Chiozza said. “Any time that happens, it takes a little, it takes the life out of you a little bit. But we came in the huddle, and we knew that if we played defense the way we played the second half, that we had a great chance of coming out with the win. And they got up five or six and we didn't lose our composure, we knew that we could still get stops and they were going to try to run some clock down.

“And we just knew if we rebounded the ball and got some stops, that we were going to have a chance to tie it up or take the lead and that's what we did. We had a great hustle play by Canyon when they had a chance to seal the game with about 20, 30 seconds left and he was able to chase the guy down and block it and we came down and tied it up. So we did what we had to do to win. We got a little bit of luck on our side.

Chiozza’s shot was the game winner, but the Gators wouldn’t have been that close without the 35 points from sophomore guard Kevaughn Allen. Allen started off slow and missed several shots to start the game, but finished 11-of-24 including 4-of-12 from the three-point line. White just wanted him to keep shooting the ball.

“That's all he was really telling me, just to keep shooting it and just to be aggressive,” he said.

“Nothing changes as far as me being aggressive and just continuing the shooting. And just my teammates just believing in me, just to keep shooting, whether I miss or hit.”

Allen also knows that his team did a great job of keeping their composure when things got rough in the contest.

“I think in the second half -- the first half we didn't play, starting didn't play great on defense,” he said. “But in the second half, I think we just got things changed and started defending. And overall, I think we did a pretty good job on just staying together and staying poised and just coming together as a team and just to get this win.”

The Gators are now headed to the Elite 8 to face SEC foe South Carolina for the third time this season. The teams split games winning on their home court and now get a series deciding matchup on the biggest stage of the year and on a neutral court.

The Gamecocks make sure nothing is easy on the offensive end for their foes.

“A battle,” Chiozza said of the game ahead. “We're both two tough defensive teams and we take pride in the defensive end. We know each other well, so it's going to be a grind it out game, probably down to the wire just like this one. And it's just going to be what team's the toughest one and who can keep the composure and be disciplined the whole 40 minutes.”

“They're a physical team,” Allen added. “We just know that we just can't make them rush us on offense. We’ve just got to stay calm and just keep moving the ball until we get wide open shots.”


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