New York — With 4 seconds left in overtime, Chris Chiozza took off with the ball, hoping to get to the hoop or find an open man. Instead, the Florida point guard stopped short right at the 3-point line and let fly with a shot that will go down in Gators' history.
Chiozza's 3-pointer swished in at the buzzer in to send Florida to the East Regional final with an 84-83 victory over Wisconsin on Friday night in the most dramatic game of this NCAA Tournament.
"This is something for the rest of his life that he'll be remembered by," Florida coach Mike White. "'He made an unbelievable play."
The fourth-seeded Gators will play South Carolina on Sunday in an all-Southeastern Conference matchup for a spot in the Final Four.
Nigel Hayes had given the Badgers (27-10) a 2-point lead with 4 seconds left on two free throws. With no timeouts, the Gators inbounded to Chiozza and he took care of the rest for Florida (27-8), setting off a Swamp-like celebration at Madison Square Garden.
"I was going to pass, but I was really going to the rim. But they did a good job of bumping me and slowing me down, and that was the shot I had so I had to have that one," Chiozza said.
Hayes ended up chasing and that is no way to play defense.
"I need to do a better job of making him change directions. He's extremely quick with the ball and he was able to put it in one hand and kind of outrun me," Hayes said.
Wisconsin's Zak Showalter was set to be the star before Chiozza took it away. Showalter, a senior, forced overtime with a leaping 3-pointer off one leg with 2.1 seconds left in regulation — pointing to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the crowd — as the Badgers wiped out a 12-point, second-half deficit in the last 4:15.
Florida is in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2014, and for the first time under White — the former Mississippi guard who was on the losing end of one of the most famous game-winning shots in NCAA history.
White and the Rebels were upset by Valparaiso on Bryce Drew's buzzer-beater in 1998. Does this one make up for that?
"Hell yeah," said White, the second-year coach who replaced Billy Donovan. "Absolutely. What a neat game to be a part of, especially when you're on the winning end."
KeVaughn Allen earned the respect of Rodgers for carrying Florida most of the way. Allen broke out of a slump with a career-high 35 points.
Eighth-seeded Wisconsin built a five-point lead in overtime, but with star guard Bronson Koenig hobbled by a leg issue the Badgers couldn't close out Florida.
After Wisconsin's Khalil Iverson hit the front of the rim on a breakaway dunk that Florida's Canyon Barry got a piece of, Chiozza drove for a layup that tied it at 81 with 24 seconds left.
The Badgers put it in Hayes' hands on their final possession. The senior who scored the winning bucket in Wisconsin's upset of defending champion Villanova, used a spin move to draw a foul.
Hayes had 22 in his last game for Wisconsin.
Making their fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance, it looked as if the experienced Badgers had once again found a way to survive and advance.
Chiozza then earned himself a spot in the "One Shining Moment" montage.
It’s the end of an era for the Badgers. Seniors Hayes, Koenig, Showalter and Vitto Brown go out having been part of four straight Sweet 16 appearances.
"This is a tough way for them to go out," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "And how they battled back, came from 12 down, it's kind of a microcosm of how they have navigated through the program. They have fought back at adverse times and tonight was a great testament to their will and never-give-up attitude."
More East Region
South Carolina 70, Baylor 50: Sindarius Thornwell scored 24 points and seventh-seeded South Carolina cruised past third-seeded Baylor 70-50 on Friday night in the East Regional semifinals, the Bears’ worst NCAA Tournament loss.
The Gamecocks (25-10) were in control from the middle of the first half on, mixing defenses and hustling all over the Madison Square Garden court to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time.
South Carolina will meet the winner of the Wisconsin-Florida game on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four at stake.
DJ Dozier and Chris Silva had 12 points each and Duane Notice added 11 for the Gamecocks.
Johnathan Motley had 18 points, 12 in the second half, for Baylor (27-8), which just couldn’t get any offense going. The Bears missed 11 of their first 13 shots from the field and it didn’t get a whole lot better the entire game. They finished 17 for 56 from the field (30.4 percent), including 3 for 13 from 3-point range.
North Carolina 92, Butler 80: North Carolina expects strong offensive performances from junior leaders Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II, but Luke Maye provided an unexpected bonus.
Berry scored 26 points, Jackson had 24, but it was the first career double-double from Maye -- 16 points and 12 rebounds -- that helped set the tone early and send the top-seeded Tar Heels to the win.
Maye’s early jolt off the bench helped Carolina (30-7) build a first-half lead to as many as 20 as the Tar Heels benefitted from accuracy, connecting on 54.4 percent of their shots while Butler was at 43.5 percent.
Andrew Chrabascz led the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (25-9) with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Kelan Martin finished with 16 points for Butler, which struggled shooting early and did not recover.
Kentucky 86, UCLA 75: De’Aaron Fox scored a career-high 39 points in a showdown between two of college basketball’s goliaths for a spot in the South Regional final. The only No. 2 seed to survive and advance, the Wildcats (32-5) won their 14th straight game. Now the NCAA’s winningest program will play another of basketball’s titans Sunday in top-seeded North Carolina with a trip to yet another Final Four on the line.
The third-seeded Bruins (31-5) still have the most national titles. Yet they leave their third Sweet 16 under coach Steve Alford short of the Elite Eight.
Fans lustily booed Kentucky coach John Calipari in his first game in Memphis since leaving in April 2009 for the Wildcats. Calipari’s latest crop of talented freshmen put Kentucky into a regional final for the sixth time in seven years.