The Florida men’s basketball team entered its biggest test of the young 2017-18 season against Gonzaga on Friday fresh off another hot shooting performance and a lethal showing from three-point range.
While the Gators’ sharpshooting nature didn’t show up early, Florida found just enough firepower to set up a dramatic finish that felt reminiscent of an NCAA tournament game.
Behind a second-half outburst from Jalen Hudson and a second-straight double-double from Chris Chiozza (25 points, 10 assists), the No. 7 Gators defeated No. 17 Gonzaga 111-105 in double overtime in Portland, Ore., to advance to the finals of their bracket in the Phil Knight Invitational.
In a game that featured 11 ties and 17 lead changes, the Gators (5-0) turned to sharpshooting guard Hudson and veteran point guard Chiozza to lead their second-half and overtime rally against Gonzaga (4-1).
Hudson scored 22 of his 35 points in the second half and at one point scored 14 of Florida’s 16 points over a span that lasted just more than six minutes. Chiozza scored 14 of his career-high 26 points during the overtime periods. Hudson added 9 points in overtime.
Hudson’s second-half performance against Gonzaga was eerily similar to his performance last week against New Hampshire. In that game — a 70-63 Florida win — Hudson also scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half and scored 17 of the Gators’ final 22 points to close out the game.
This time, though, he did it against a Gonzaga team that returned three key contributors from its team last season that finished as the national runners-up in the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga went into the locker room up 36-29 at halftime after outscoring the Gators 17-6 in the final 7:31 of the frame. Egor Koulechov missed all 7 of his shots in the half and Florida made only 37.9 percent of its shots from the field (11-for 29). Florida missed 12 of its final 14 shots heading into intermission.
The Gators quickly took a one-point lead out of the half by making five of their first seven shots before the game spiraled into a bevy of momentum changes and mini runs on both sides.
After Gonzaga took a 78-76 lead, KeVaughn Allen — who scored 23 points in the win — drove to the basket and made an acrobatic layup between two Gonzaga defenders to tie the game with 23 seconds left. A Bulldogs miss with 2 seconds left sent the game to overtime.
Florida took the lead twice in overtime on big three-point baskets — first by Hudson and later by Chiozza — before Gonzaga came back to tie the game at 91 with 48 seconds left.
A Chiozza three-point play gave Florida a two-point lead with 8 seconds left before Silas Melson tied the game with a second to go. A missed free throw on the and-one attempt from Melson pushed the game to a second OT.
Florida finally closed it out in the second overtime period, with Chiozza and Hudson combining for 12 of the Gators’ 16 points in the final five-minute period to clinch the win.
The Gators’ interior defense struggled throughout the game against Gonzaga’s front court of Jonathan Williams and Killian Tillie, who combined for 56 of Gonzaga’s points and were two of five Bulldogs with double-figure scoring. Tillie fouled out early in the first overtime period. Overall, Florida was outscored 52-24 in the paint, which could be a recurring issue early in the season until John Egbunu recovers from his torn ACL.
The Gators close out their time in the PK80 Invite by facing top-ranked Duke on Sunday. The Blue Devils (7-0) opened the tournament with a 99-81 win over Portland State and then defeated Texas 85-78 in overtime on Friday. Tipoff is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.
Florida-Gonzaga box score