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Two coaching blunders and one shining moment

By Matt Youmans
VSiN senior editor

March 25, 2017 02:32 AM
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Chris Chiozza's game-winning shot for Florida never should have happened.
© USA Today Sports Images

Bet on seeing several replays of the shot. Chris Chiozza jumped from behind the 3-point line and floated toward the basket as the ball hit net and beat the buzzer.

Florida stunned Wisconsin 84-83 in overtime on Friday night in New York. The Gators are going to the Elite Eight. This is what we expect from the NCAA Tournament. One shining moment wrapped in drama, elation and heartbreak.

But Chiozza’s shot only happened because of two coaching blunders.

Sure, it was an insanely entertaining game, and there were all kinds of positives. Still, this is an opportunity to be negative in a constructive way — it’s a teaching moment. The film of this game needs to be part of a coaching clinic.

Florida coach Mike White got lucky and wiggled off the hook, but he and Wisconsin coach Greg Gard should be embarrassed by their mistakes.

First of all, White nearly gave the game away by making the all-too-common error of trying to milk the clock instead of running the offense and scoring on set plays. The Gators’ 68-58 lead with 3½ minutes remaining eventually evaporated as they went conservative and the Badgers became the aggressors. How many times have we seen that scenario?

After a Florida turnover with 18 seconds to go, Wisconsin advanced the ball past half court and called a timeout with 6 seconds on the clock. When the Badgers inbounded to Zak Showalter, the TV analyst ironically noted the Gators do not foul in these situations. It was a huge blunder by White. Up 3 points and with the clock inside 5 seconds, a foul is definitely the right move.

Showalter dribbled — he was not fouled to go to the line for two free throws — and launched a running 3-pointer off one leg to tie the score at 72 with 2.1 seconds remaining. Overtime.

At that point, White set himself up to be the goat of the night.

With 4 seconds left in OT, Nigel Hayes made a spinning drive to the basket and was fouled. Hayes made the first free throw, putting Wisconsin up 82-81.

At that point, Gard should have instructed Hayes to miss the second attempt. Florida was out of timeouts. If Hayes had missed, the Gators would have rebounded with no forward momentum and the clock ticking down. A half-court heave was probably the best shot they could have hoped for in a frenzy.

Instead, Hayes made the second free throw. It was a meaningless point for the Badgers, but the clock stoppage meant everything to the Gators. Florida inbounded to Chiozza, who sprinted upcourt. No Wisconsin defender crossed his path to change his direction or slow his dribble. Chiozza was able to launch the uncontested game-winning runner.

Chiozza deserves credit for hitting a tough shot. White was fortunate to be off the hook. Gard was the goat for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Of course, there were point-spread ramifications, too. At the South Point sports book, Florida opened as a 1½-point favorite. The line went up to 2 and briefly down to pick’em before closing Gators minus-1.

No bettor should have been a loser. If you liked Florida, you bet minus-1 or pick’em. If you liked Wisconsin, you bet plus-1, 1½ or 2. But some bettors surely made a costly mistake.

It was a wild game in Madison Square Garden. It also was a teaching moment for the coaches and everyone who puts money on the line.

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