The No. 7 Florida Gators stepped up to defeat the No. 17 Gonzaga Bulldogs 111-105 in a double overtime thriller Friday night.
The two teams battled hard for a spot in the Phil Knight Invitational championship game, but in the end the Gators came out on top.
After rolling over Stanford on Thursday with a record-breaking offensive performance, Florida didn’t come out with the same firepower to start the semifinal game. The Bulldogs raced to a 13-4 lead in the first five minutes.
The Gators finally started coming around to go on a 13-0 run and take the lead back. Then, back to sleep the offense went to close out the first half as Gonzaga went to the locker room with a 36-29 advantage.
The second half consisted of nine lead changes. Florida went up by as many as six with nine minutes remaining, but as usual, the Bulldogs found their way back in it in no time.
Gonzaga proceeded to take a four-point lead with two minutes on the clock, but Jalen Hudson quickly answered with one of his eight three-pointers on the night. A couple of Chris Chiozza free throws gave the Gators a short-lived lead as time ticked down, but the Zags once again came through with a made layup and converted on for a three-point play.
A KeVaughn Allen drive to the basket with 28 seconds remaining in regulation tied it up, and that’s when the real fun started.
Florida led for most of the first overtime period and appeared to be close to home free with a 95-93 lead and eight seconds left. With just one second to spare, Gonzaga tied it back up, and had a chance to win it with a Keith Stone foul on the play.
The Gators lucked out with a missed free-throw attempt, but Egor Koulechov had to make things a little more interesting with an ill-advised travel with 0.7 seconds to go. Chris Chiozza left Gonzaga’s Silas Melson uncovered and he put up a three-point attempt, but missed, sending the game into a second overtime period.
With both teams completely worn out, Florida just had more will and more shots falling in the second overtime. The Zags tied it at 97 with 3:22 left, but three quick three-pointers from Hudson and Chiozza quickly let the air out of Gonzaga’s sails as the Gators took a seven-point lead.
Florida came through with made free-throws in the final minute to put things away.
Hudson was the hero of the night. After a slow start, he came to life for 35 points on 11-for-20 from the field and a smooth 8-for-12 from long range.
Another big boost came from Chiozza as he finished with his second consecutive double-double with a career-high 26 points to go with 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Allen was just 5-for-16 from the field, but made a huge difference from the foul line as he made all 11 of his attempts and finished with 23 points.
Behind those three big scorers, Keith Stone had nine points and no one else finished with more than four.
Koulechov led the team with nine rebounds, but was not a factor at all offensively as he had just four points in 44 minutes on the court.
The Gators were hot once again from distance once they got things going, finishing at 47.2 percent (17-for-36)
Florida’s biggest disadvantage came in the paint. The Bulldogs dominated with a 52-point performance inside, led by a 39 point outing from Johnathan Williams.
The exhausting win pushes the Gators onto the PK80 finals with the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils. It will be another late-night affair at 10:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday night.