NEW YORK – Wisconsin's four seniors went 8-1 in overtime the last four seasons, including winning seven of those games on the road. It’s the last one that will sting them forever.
Chris Chiozza delivered the dagger when his running 3-pointer with no time left lifted fourth-seeded Florida to an 84-83 victory over eighth-seed Wisconsin Friday in the East Regional semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Sophomore guard Kevaughn Allen broke out of his shooting slump in a big way, as the first-team All-SEC star dropped 35 points – the most in a N.C.A.A. tournament game in school history – on a night where the Gators (27-8) shot 45.2 percent and put no other players in double figures.
It was still good enough to set up an all-SEC final between Florida and seventh-seed South Carolina Sunday for a berth in the Final Four in Glendale, AZ.
Refusing to give in despite being 10 down with under five minutes to play, senior Zak Showalter’s 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left forced overtime. The Badgers built a lead as big as five points with 1:08 to go and led by four with 42 seconds left.
But the first overtime game in the tournament had much more drama. After his two free throws cut the lead to two, Canyon Barry’s hustle play blocked a hesitating Khalil Iverson on an open layup with 34 seconds left. Chiozza tied the score at 82 on the next possession.
Able to hold for one possession, Nigel Hayes (team-high 22 points) hit a pair of free throws with four seconds left but only could watch as Chiozza’s runner hit nothing but net.Bronson Koenig scored 13 and Vitto Brown added 10 for Wisconsin (27-10), which shot itself in the foot with 15 turnovers leading to 20 Florida points and going 20-for-30 from the line, the latter that plagued the Badgers all season long.
Wisconsin’s first 10 offensive possessions of the game were things of beauty. The Badgers scored 16 points from five different scorers, went 6-for-8 with five assists and hit all three 3-pointers.
The last 15 possessions were a different story, as the Badgers managed only two field goals and seven turnovers. After Hayes sat the final 4:25 after drawing his second foul, Wisconsin made only one field goal to three turnovers in those seven possessions after Florida turned up the press.
It’s also didn’t help that Happ and Brown fouled Allen shooting a 3-pointer with either one second left on the shot or the game clock. An 87.8 percent free throw shooter, those six free throws gave Florida a halftime lead and Allen – who entered halftime 7-for-33 and 2-18 from 3-point range in the tournament – some confidence with 15 points.
Down as many as 10 points, Wisconsin executed a 12-1 run to take a 53-52 lead with 10:21 remaining. The joy was short lived with Allen hitting a 3-pointer and turnovers on three consecutive UW possessions helped spark a 9-0 run to re-dig the Badgers’ hole.
The lead ballooned to as many as 12, but Wisconsin went on a 10-2 run and tied the game with 2.5 seconds left on a Showalter 3-pointer runner to set up the thrilling-heartbreaking finish.
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