BY: KASSIDY HILL
While assembling our list of the best Florida Flashback memories from the past decade, there were a few that we kept asking, "what would that have been like from the stands?" We have a good view from the press box, yes, but there's nothing like experiencing a once in a lifetime moment with thousands of your closest friends.
So for this play, we asked to hear from you, the fans. Here are your memories of the Chris Chiozza buzzer beater against Wisconsin.
...but first, a bit of background.
The Florida Gators basketball program experienced it’s best season of the decade during 2013-2014…then came two years of mediocrity. The Gators and Billy Donovan didn’t make any sort of postseason tournament in 2015. New head coach Mike White and his team only made it as far as the NIT in 2016. But the following season, White earned SEC Coach of the Year for the turnaround performance and with a 24-8, 14-4 record, the Gators entered March Madness as a No. 4 seed.
The Gators made easy work of ETSU in the first round and then absolutely embarrassed 5 seed Virginia in the second round. The Sweet 16 pitted Florida against an 8 seed Wisconsin Badgers. It was a 10pm tip in Madison Square Garden with a packed crowd stuffed in…all the makings for a classic March Madness.
With just over two minutes in regulation, Florida led by eight. The Badgers fought back with a long ball and a layup then coming out of a timeout, Zach Showalter hit a running three pointer to tie the game with six seconds left. He turned to Aaron Rodgers in the crowd, hit the discount double check and we were headed to over time tied at 72, having already packed enough craziness in regulation to become the best game March Madness had seen thus far…and things were only getting started.
With 0:36 remaining, the Gators trailed by four. Canyon Barry went to the free throw line, popped up two of his patented Granny style shots, sunk them both to make it 81-79 and then sprinted down the court on defense. He caught up with the Badgers Khalil Iverson and blocked back a shot straight into Chris Chiozza’s hands. The guard bided his time on the other end before driving in for a layup to tie the score again at 81.
Florida only had one scorer in double digits—Kevaughn Allen with 35—and Chris Chiozza only took six shots all night. He made a jumper halfway through the second half, his first field goal of the night, then the layup in OT. But he will be remembered forever for the last shot he took that night, the shot that epitomized March Madness.
Chiozza took the inbounds with four seconds to play. He ran the length on an island, just himself and a defender. With 0:09 to go, he left his feet, leeping just before passing the 3-point arc, and let it fly. The ball looked to hook at first, before the physics of a perfect shot became clear. With the backboard lit in red as the buzzer sounded, Chiozza’s shot flitted through the net.
Benches cleared in celebration and those lucky enough to see it live still remember the moment as if it was yesterday.
I was disappointed that the game had gone into overtime and we'd let Wisconsin build a significant lead. As Cheese took the ball up the floor, I thought "he's going too fast to put up a jump shot but not fast enough for a game-tying layup." Obviously, I went crazy afterwards despite being exhausted and hungry because we'd travel to NYC that afternoon from Maryland, the game had gone late, and MSG had closed all their concessions well before regulation ended.
I was a little dejected leading up to the last play. We had blown a large lead in regulation. I was sitting with two other gators in the Wisconsin section. When the shot went in, I absolutely lost it and almost fell over the seats in front of me. Many hugs with complete strangers were had after the play.
I’m a New Yorker with knicks season tickets. Been to the garden 100 times. I have never before felt the pure jubilation that I felt that night. Initially we were in shock because of how quickly it happened. Wisconsin had just hit a huge shot of their own to take the lead. Our section of gator fans went insane. High fived everyone in reach. Hugged a lot of strangers. It was awesome.
I was at the Chiozza buzzer beater against Wisconsin. Lifelong Gator fan from North Jersey and I got to go with my younger brother who took after me in rooting for the gators. Such a crazy back and forth game it was an amazing game to see live and the moment Cheese’s shot went through the net was one of the most amazing moments I will ever experience. Something we will remember forever. P.S. I’m a huge Nets fan and being able to watch Cheese every night everything I could’ve asked for.
On the Elite Eight Sunday the Gotham Gator Club had taken over a bar near MSG and the TVs were replaying the sweet 16 game while everyone was brunching. Everyone knew what was coming at the end, but it was still exciting and the bar fell silent as Chiozza ran down the court and lifted the shot. Then the bar exploded when the ball went in. It was almost as loud as the arena had been 2 nights earlier