There were five Wisconsin players and one whirring blur of white cleaving all of them — a Florida point guard motoring up the court, veering out of control and finally planting his foot at just the right spot.
It had to be the right spot, just beyond the 3-point line. It had to be the right time. It had to float for what seemed like an eternity and disappear softly through the net. All these things had to happen for the fourth-seeded Gators to finally thwart a relentless Wisconsin team that kept coming back, again and again.
But there was no more time left after Chris Chiozza’s 3-pointer at the buzzer, which ended an 84-83 thriller in overtime at Madison Square Garden. It was early Saturday morning when the game finally concluded, although Wisconsin, competing in its fourth consecutive round of 16, would have loved to keep playing.
Instead, its monumental comeback effort had been undone in four seconds. In that span, Florida, with no timeouts, had planned for Chiozza to dribble all the way up the floor and deliver the Gators to the round of 8.
A Hail Mary, really — and with Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, sitting no more than 10 feet away. As the ball went through the net, with 2.5 seconds left, Showalter turned toward Rodgers and mimicked Rodgers’s signature championship-belt celebration.
“It was deflating,” Florida Coach Mike White said. “It was a deflating shot. But we didn’t freak out.”
Florida, trailing by as much as 5 points in overtime, did not blink. The Gators tied the game with 24 seconds left in the extra period. But a drive by Hayes with four seconds remaining drew a foul, and at the line his two shots found their mark.
That is when Chiozza whizzed up the court, through the Badgers’ defense, and into the annals of Florida’s basketball history. His shot ended the first overtime game of this N.C.A.A. tournament.
“The last 45 minutes are going to sting and hurt for quite a while,” Wisconsin Coach Greg Gard said.
With two minutes left in regulation, Wisconsin trailed by 70-62. The Badgers looked depleted, thinned by foul trouble, fatigued by the seemingly endless arms and legs of the Gators. A layup by Showalter kept the game interesting. Soon it became breathtaking.
Koenig hit a 3-pointer, and then Ethan Happ made a layup. With 44 seconds left, the Badgers were down only 3.
Florida had a chance to put the game away, but Hayes poked the ball out for a steal. There was time for a game-tying shot, an honor typically reserved for Koenig. But then he started limping.
He grabbed at his right leg and indicated it had locked up on him. Wisconsin called timeout and set up an out-of-bounds play, this time not for Koenig but for Showalter.
Showalter showed his aim was true. But five minutes later, Chiozza’s heroics turned his triumph to tears.