Cliche as it may be, it must be said: it doesn't matter if you're a fan of Wisconsin or Florida—last night's game was for fans of basketball. Because even if your heart was sailing on soon-to-be snuffed out hopes that NCAA-challenging Nigel Hayes and his No. 8 seed Badger underdogs were going to upset No. 4 seed Florida, you simply could not ask for a more spectacular ending in the purest sense of the word. Because that, people, was what a spectacle looks like.
Florida seemed poised to knock out Wisconsin while up 12 points with five minutes left in the game—even the announcers were talking about which Badgers would end their college careers that night. But just as Florida erased their 11-point deficit from the first half, Wisconsin found a way to grind out their own spectacular comeback thanks to a rash of free throws and Hayes' heroics.
But the name that was all-but be inked-in for headlines was certainly Zak Showalter, who (above) found himself with the ball after an inbounds play with six seconds and change left on the clock while down three. There was only one way to go—and Showalter certainly went there. With a flying leap from behind the arc, he lobbed up a ball with both hands in a shot whose success would overwrite its desperation. It was a stunning shot, and the perfect conjunction to take us into overtime.
Yet, after a hard-fought duel between the two teams, the only way that Showalter could be bested was with an even better, more impossible version of his own shot. That's when Florida guard Chris Chiozza set flight for a one-handed miracle shot that would seal Florida's victory in the final breathless ticks of the clock. Just take a look:
Notice the speed, contrasted starkly with the poise on his finish. It's almost balletic. He carried into the shot such a huge amount of momentum that he had to tweak his body into a delicate spiral and retract his shooting movement in order to ensure the ball didn't skyrocket into the stands. And whatever instincts he had—while suspended seemingly frozen in midair—were immaculate, as the ball drifted gracefully through the back of the net.
It was almost as if he and Showalter were playing a game of H.O.R.S.E. where style points counted. Florida may have won, but good goddamn, were we—the audience—the victors.