MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NY. Just as the Badgers’ season was about to end, senior guard Zach Showalter (14 pts.) hit an impossible 3-point shot, releasing behind the arc as he flew over it to send the Sweet Sixteen game into an unlikely overtime.
In overtime, the Badgers, without senior Vito Brown (10 pts.) who had fouled out, with star senior guard Bronson Koenig (13 pts.) hobbled with a leg injury, and with Ethan Happ (21 pts.) nursing four fouls, dominated. Following two free throws by senior forward Nigel Hayes (22 pts.) with 4 seconds remaining, the Badgers held a 83-81 lead and appeared headed to the Elite Eight.
But, the Gators’ junior guard Chris Chiozza returned Showalter’s favor, and then some, by hitting the almost identical shot as the buzzer sounded. This time, however, the three pointer ended the game and set off a jubilant celebration for the Gators, as they, not the Badgers, moved on to the Elite Eight.
The stunned Badgers could do nothing but watch in dismay and disbelief. They had squandered their chances.
With under a minute to go in OT, junior Kahlil Iverson (3 pts.) had a chance at a breakaway slam dunk that in all likelihood would have sealed the game. But, somehow, he allowed himself to be “stuffed” by less athletic Gator Canyon Barry (son of NBA great rick Barry).
And, this time, the Badgers’s crummy free throw shooting (20-30, 67%) cost them the game. Two more free throws down the stretch would have put them in the Elite Eight. Wisconsin also turned the ball over 16 times and committed an amazing 26 fouls to help seal their own fate.
Sophomore KeVaughn Allen led the Gators with a career-high 35 points. While Chiozza had only 8 points, he scored the final five to secure the victory for the Gators. Florida (27-9) moves on to play the upstart South Carolina Gamecocks (25-10) in Sunday’s Elite Eight matchup, with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Meanwhile, the Badgers close their 2016-17 campaign at 27-10. But, for seniors Hayes, Koenig, Brown , and Showalter, who had gone to the Final Four twice in their illustrious careers, there will be no tomorrow, at least at Wisconsin.