COLUMBIA, Mo. — On the game’s decisive play, Florida’s Chris Chiozza was assigned to guard Jordan Barnett, who was standing in front of the Missouri bench. But when a soft pass from the opposite wing was directed toward Kassius Robertson at the top of the key, Chiozza sprang into action.
The senior guard stepped in to steal the pass from Jordan Geist then coasted for a layup just before the buzzer to the give the Gators a 77-75 victory Saturday.
"I wasn’t really anywhere near the play," Chiozza said. "I just jumped it."
Florida coach Mike White was asked if he had ever coached a game with a finish that wild. White initially didn’t think so, then recalled last season’s NCAA Tournament region semifinal against Wisconsin, when Chiozza hit a running 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer to lift the Gators to an 84-83 victory.
"Very, very similar, with the same guy," White said. "He’s an older guard. He just happened to sniff it out. It was a gamble that paid off."
The Gators (11-4, 3-0 SEC) trailed by 12 in the first half before rallying to take a 36-35 halftime lead. The Tigers (11-4, 1-1) opened a 70-62 lead with 6:31 left when Jeremiah Tilmon beat the shot clock with a turnaround jumper off an inbounds play.
Florida again came back and tied it at 75 with 22.2 seconds left when Jalen Hudson made 2 of 3 free throws after he drew a foul from Robertson on a 3-point attempt. Robertson protested the foul call, one of a few in the second half that drew a rise out of Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin and the crowd.
"I guess I have to keep my mouth closed," Martin said. "I don’t want to say anything. But very, very tough for me."
Hudson led Florida with 16 points, Egor Koulechov added 15 and Chiozza and Keith Stone each scored 13.