With sophomore forward Georges Niang out for the remainder of the season with a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot, East Region No. 3 Iowa State had a major personnel loss to account for ahead of their matchup with No. 6 North Carolina in San Antonio. Not the deepest team to begin with, Fred Hoiberg’s team would have to take on a North Carolina team with multiple front court bodies without the services of a player who averaged 16.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
However thanks to DeAndre Kane’s outstanding performance, the Cyclones are headed to New York City after beating the Tar Heels 85-83. Kane’s layup with 1.6 seconds remaining gave Iowa State the win, with the game ending in controversial fashion due to the clock operator failing to start the clock on time following Kane’s basket. After reviewing the play the officials ruled that there was no time remaining, dealing the Tar Heels a painful blow that will linger throughout the offseason.
Kane accounted for 24 points, ten rebounds and seven assists on the evening, and while he did commit seven turnovers the Marshall transfer was an extremely difficult matchup for North Carolina. Without Niang on the floor Iowa State was without a key facilitator capable of assessing the defense and setting up his teammates for quality looks, something that Kane was asked to do with greater regularity Sunday. From a rebounding standpoint the Cyclones more than held their own with the bigger Tar Heels, and Iowa State’s offensive balance helped as well.
In total five Cyclones finished the game in double figures including Melvin Ejim (19 points, four rebounds) and Naz Long, with the latter scoring 12 points and hitting two key three-pointers when North Carolina threatened to pull away in the second half. Long also hit a three-pointer with 49 seconds remaining to tie the game at 81.
Iowa State looked fatigued during the middle of the second half, which was to be expected given the Tar Heels’ advantage in the depth department. But it would be North Carolina who made the “fatigued” decisions late, losing players in transition with the most glaring resulting in Kane’s layup with 27 seconds remaining to give Iowa State an 83-81 lead.
Iowa State had just one day to adjust to not having Niang in the lineup, and thanks in large part to Kane the Cyclones were able to survive and advance. Clearly this is a different group without their sophomore forward, but there’s still talent and a coach in Hoiberg who’s done a good job of making sure his players are in spots where they can be most successful. And as a result, Iowa State’s headed to Madison Square Garden for a matchup with No. 7 UConn Friday night.