His driving layup with 1.6 seconds left gave the third-seeded Cyclones an 85-83 victory over the Tar Heels on Sunday in a third-round game at the AT&T Center.
But Kane's layup almost wasn't the final play. The clock was slow to start on the ensuing inbounds pass, but instead of shooting, North Carolina guard Nate Britt tried to call a timeout after crossing half-court. After about a five-minute review, the referees ruled that the timeout was not called in time, the game was over and Iowa State was in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 14 years.
"I've never seen this happen," said analyst Steve Kerr on the CBS broadcast. "But [the officials] got it right."
North Carolina coach Roy Williams concurred.
"Let's not anybody lay it on the officials or anything like that," Williams said. "We didn't call the timeout with 1.6 seconds to play. ... We practice all the time that situation for five guys to be calling timeout, and I'm supposed to be calling timeout, and I was calling timeout. ... We practice those scenarios, so we made mistakes."
About that final mad dash for a timeout, Britt said: "My goal was to get the ball, get it across the line and call the timeout. When I looked up at the clock I thought there was 1-point something still left. I guess I didn’t call it in time. I didn’t hear the explanation."
With the dramatic and slightly delayed victory, Iowa State earned the right to face seventh-seeded Connecticut on Friday in the East regional semifinals in New York.
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Niang, Iowa State's third-leading scorer, broke a bone in his right foot Friday after scoring 24 points in Iowa State's victory over North Carolina Central and was replaced in the starting lineup by Daniel Edozie, who finished with zero points and four rebounds in 16 minutes in his first career start. With Niang out, it perhaps put a little more pressure on the Cyclones to perform.
"I just told him we were going to try to get this one and pull this one out for him," Kane said. "He's one of our leaders when he's in the game. We draw up a lot of plays for him. He's a playmaker. We really wanted to get this one for him because without him we wouldn't be here. So this game was definitely dedicated to Georges."
So Kane, who totaled 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, took matters into his own hands.
"It was a little isolation for me to try to attack the basket," Kane said of the game-winning shot over North Carolina's J.P. Tokoto and Jackson Simmons. "If any guys were going to help on me, I was going to try to kick it out to one of my teammates. But nobody helped, and I made an acrobatic shot and it went in."
Kane buoyed the Cyclones early after they came out sluggish and connected on just one of their first 10 shots, and he finished with 15 points and eight rebounds in the first half.
Iowa State was effective at quickly doubling the low post, holding James Michael McAdoo to one point on 0-of-4 shooting and limiting Kennedy Meeks to two baskets in the first half. The double-teams were a little sloppier in the second half and allowed McAdoo and Kennedy to get going as the pair finished the game with 29 combined points.
It was the Cyclones' 3-point shooting that kept them in it. They hit 12-of-26, with Naz Long shooting 4-of-8 and Monte Morris converting 3-of-4 from long range.
Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim totaled 19 points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers, and had four rebounds for the Cyclones.
North Carolina was led by guard Marcus Paige, who finished with 19 points but was held scoreless in the game's final six minutes. Leslie McDonald added 18 points and hit a big 3 with 1:32 left that put the Tar Heels up 79-76.
But that's when Kane took over. He assisted on a 3-pointer by Long to tie it at 81, then made a layup to put Iowa State up 83-81 with 28.1 seconds remaining before hitting his game-winner.
"It's, I guess, heartbreaking to be there and have the opportunity late in the game despite all that we went through for 40 minutes." McAdoo said. "For Kane to hit that shot, it's tough. But no one play really defines a game. For 40 minutes we battled and we just came up on the losing end."