It’s been fourteen years, but the Iowa State Cyclones are finally back in the Sweet 16.
The Cyclones pulled out a tough 85-83 win in the final minutes to send sixth-seeded North Carolina home.
Despite having to play without key forward Georges Niang, who fractured his foot in the Cyclones’ Round of 64 win against NC Central, Iowa State found production from other players to stave off North Carolina’s second half comeback.
DeAndre Kane led all scorers with 24 points, his last two from his game-winning layup with only seconds remaining. He was a force on the glass, bringing down ten rebounds, and he dished out seven assists. In other words, he did it all.
Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim added 19 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block.
Junior forward Dustin Hogue fouled out in this game, but not before contributing 14 points, seven of which came from the charity stripe. He gave Iowa State some needed second chance points, too, as he grabbed four offensive rebounds.
Freshman guard Monte Morris added 13 points, connecting on three of his four three pointers. But it was Naz Long who kept Iowa State within comeback distance late in the second half, hitting four three pointers that got the Iowa State team electrified on the court and on the bench.
Long hit one with just under four minutes to go to cut into the Tar Heels’ eight point lead, and after Monte Morris and Melvin Ejim cut into the deficit a bit more, Long tied it up at 81 with 50 seconds left after an intelligent downcourt pass by DeAndre Kane.
Kane made Iowa State’s final two buckets, attacking the lane with a purpose and exhibiting beautiful touch on his shots. His performance tonight was nothing short of spectacular, and he made the loss of Niang seem like only a slight setback.
In reality, the loss of Niang’s presence is a big deal. You could tell how tired Iowa State was at the end of this game, and Niang is a guy who eats up the minutes down low. Dustin Hogue and Melvin Ejim did a great job down in the post, but Niang in the ballgame just makes Iowa State so much more potent on both sides of the ball.
However, if this game was any indication, Iowa State will continue to find more ways to win. Even when North Carolina started to separate from the Cyclones, ISU just kept chugging along until they surpassed the Tar Heels in the final minute. This win is something to be proud of for Fred Hoiberg’s squad, to say the least.
Iowa State now faces seventh-seeded Connecticut in the Sweet 16. Visit the Iowa State page for the latest on the Cyclones’ tournament run.