|by David Hood|
Senior guard Rod Hall scored a career-high 20 points to lead all scorers, while Damarcus Harrison scored 14 and McDaniels 12 for a Clemson team needing an ACC win.
The Tigers (16-9 overall, 7-6 ACC) entered Tuesday’s contest tied with N.C. State (16-10, 6-7) for sixth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings. The win also broke a three-game losing streak to the Pack. The 73 points was also the most scored against an ACC opponent this season.
The Tigers won the rebounding battle 31-24, and had just 11 turnovers.
Hall was 6-for-10 from the field and 8-for-8 from the free throw line. He also collected three rebounds.
“I knew they were playing a box on K.J., and I knew I had to step up,” Hall said after the game. “Coach (Earl) Grant is my position coach, and he was telling me before the game that I need to shoot more. He was telling me that I had a good percentage, but I was only taking four shots a game. I knew I needed to do more to help the offense, and I think I did that tonight.”
Head coach Brad Brownell said the game plan was to get Hall more involved in the scoring.
“We felt like he could get in the paint against their smaller guards,” Brownell said. “We felt like he could get us off to a good start. They tried a lot of things against K.J., and when those things happen the other guys have to step up and make plays.”
The Tigers jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, and eventually led 26-14 after a three-point play by Rod Hall with 7:26 remaining in the half.
It was all N.C. State after that, however, as the Pack outscored the Tigers 19-6 over the final 7:26 of the half, taking a 33-32 lead into intermission after a layup by Desmond Lee with five seconds left in the half. That basket marked the first N.C. State lead of the game.
The Tigers began the second half on a hot streak, fueled in part by a hard foul by the Pack on Landry Nnoko on a dunk attempt that could have been called an intentional foul. The officials gathered at the scorer’s table to review the play and decided it wouldn’t be called intentional, much to the dismay of the Littlejohn crowd.
Two possessions later, however, McDaniels was fouled as he went up for a shot, and the intentional foul was called immediately. McDaniels hit both free throws for a 37-33 lead, and the Tigers then scored six of the next eight points to lead 43-35 just four minutes into the half.
“They came out in the second half and tried to play physical with us,” McDaniels said. “We were getting out in transition, and they tried to get physical so we got physical with them. Coach got on us at halftime, and he told us if we weren’t going to give a good effort, we would be on the bench. I thought we responded pretty good.”
Three minutes later, Jaron Blossomgame hit a 3-pointer and a McDaniels block led to a Damarcus Harrison dunk, giving the Tigers a 48-37 lead and forcing the Pack into a timeout. The lead eventually ballooned to 14 points – at 56-42 – on two McDaniels free throws, but the Pack then went on a 7-0 run that made it 56-49 with the just over nine minutes remaining.
The next six minutes belonged to the Clemson defense – the Tigers forced seven consecutive missed shots by the Pack and forced two turnovers during a 10-0 run that ended with a McDaniels putback slam at the 3:15 mark. That dunk gave the Tigers a 66-49 lead and forced a Pack timeout.
The Pack broke the drought at an even seven minutes, but the damage was done and the Tigers were able to coast the rest of the way to the win.
“I thought it was a good win against a good team tonight,” Brownell said. “Coming in, I thought we would play well, and I told the guys that. We had a great practice Sunday, and we needed that tonight. They obviously threw a bunch of different things at us, and except for the bad play at the end of the first half, I thought we played exceptionally well for 32 or 33 minutes.”
The Tigers play their next two games on the road – at Georgia Tech Saturday and at Wake Forest next Tuesday – before ending the regular season with three consecutive home games.
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David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org