NEW YORK -- With South Carolina’s impressive victory over Baylor in the books to send the Gamecocks to the Elite Eight, the nightcap at Madison Square Garden in the East Regional featured Wisconsin against Florida. While the opener was one-sided, this one had more than its share of drama. Chris Chiozza, an eight-point scorer on the evening, accounted for the three decisive points on a final shot that gave the Gators a thrilling 84-83 overtime victory. Florida will face South Carolina, a team they split with this season, for a spot in the Final Four on Sunday.
First five possessions:
Wisconsin: Missed field goal, offensive foul, three-point field goal, missed field goal, field goal
Florida: Field goal, missed field goal, field goal, turnover, missed field goal
The 5-4 Wisconsin lead with 16:41 remaining in the first half suggested a pace closer to deliberate, which suits Wisconsin better. The Badgers averaged a number in the mid-sixties in possessions per game, while Florida was an uptempo, low-70-possession club this season.
First half observations: KenPom noted Florida shot 38 percent from three-point range in SEC play. Wisconsin had one of the poorest three-point defenses in the Big Ten, allowing 40 percent from downtown. Naturally, coach Greg Gard had to be concerned about the perimeter. At the 12-minute timeout, Wisconsin had an eight-point lead and allowed not one three-pointer, not just a case of Florida missing, but also the Badgers doing a good job locating shooters and effectively closing out on them.
Florida struggled to find an answer to Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes. The 6-foot-8 senior made remarks to the New York Post yesterday about not liking New York. In the early going, however, he was quite comfortable and effective on the Garden floor. Hayes can mix it up inside and hit the perimeter shot as well.
Interior defense. That is something Gard needed to address at the half. Florida got into the lane off the dribble easier than expected. With their ability to get inside, the perimeter opened up and Florida took advantage. What had the makings of a rout in the early going drastically changed over the latter part of the first half.
Halftime: Florida 34, Wisconsin 32
Possessions: Wisconsin 33, Florida 32
Offensive efficiency: Florida 106, Wisconsin 97
First four minutes of second half: Florida got out fast, winning the first segment, 11-7. At the 16-minute timeout, they owned a six-point lead. Getting off to a good start was significant. as coach Mike White’s Gators finished the half strong and looked to build on that momentum.
Early in the second half, Florida expanded to a 10-point lead. The Gators did a nice job spreading the floor and taking Wisconsin off the dribble. At this crucial juncture, trailing by ten and with Florida enjoying the momentum, Wisconsin dug deep and responded with defensive stops, plus finding Hayes again on offense. Wisconsin regained the lead by two. Good teams make runs. Good teams weather them as well. Florida regrouped, and at the seven-minute mark, led by eight. Instrumental for the Gators was KeVaughn Allen, who was a defensive nightmare for the Badgers all night.
Wisconsin trailed by eight late, but would not go away. The Badgers trimmed the deficit to three with 37 seconds remaining. Florida had not scored a field goal for over four minutes, and lost the ball on a penetration, giving Wisconsin has one last chance to knot the score. Following a timeout with 6.5 seconds to play, Zak Showalter canned a three on the run with two seconds left. The Gators could not get a shot off at the horn, forcing overtime.
In the extra session, Florida still struggled to hit a field goal. On the other hand, Wisconsin was doing a good job getting in advantageous position to draw fouls. The Badgers failed to capitalize to the maximum on their trips to the line, though. Florida regained their range and following a great defensive play by Canyon Barry, tied it on a penetration to the basket. On the other end, Hayes was fouled and made both shots. With four seconds left, the Gators inbounded, with Chiozza’s runner from beyond the arc falling to send the Gators to the Elite Eight.
Possessions: Wisconsin 74, Florida 73
Offensive efficiency: Florida 115, Wisconsin 112
Effective field goal percentage: Wisconsin 57, Florida 52
Free throw rate: Wisconsin 55, Florida 45
Offensive rebound percentage: Wisconsin 36, Florida 36
Turnover rate: Wisconsin 22, Florida 16
Leading scorers and effectiveness factors:
Wisconsin: Nigel Hayes, 22 points, EF 28
Florida: KeVaughn Allen, 35 points, EF 36
What Wisconsin did well: Shoot and get to the foul line. The Badgers did struggle at the stripe, though, going 20-for-30.
What Florida did well: Show resilience to come back after losing a 10-point lead with four minutes to go in regulation and trailing by five in overtime.
NOTES: The game saw seven ties and ten lead changes. Florida’s bench outscored Wisconsin, 20-3. Hayes did a good job getting to the line, but did struggle from the charity stripe, going 7-for-14 in what amounted to a microcosm of the Badgers’ free throw maladies.
Ball Control Index: Wisconsin 1.38, Florida 1.17
Justin Leon of Florida and Khalil Iverson of Wisconsin shared top rebounding honors with eight each. Florida wound up shooting 8-of-22 from distance, with Chiozza’s last attempt obviously being the biggest and most successful of the evening.
Wisconsin placed five in double figures. Allen was the lone Gator to hit for double digits. In the final analysis, Florida held their own under the boards. They were outrebounded in raw numbers, 36-34, and tied in offensive rebound percentage. The largest lead of the game was 12, held by Florida with just over five minutes to play in regulation. Wisconsin ends their season 27-10, while Florida is now 26-8.