McDaniels' career night leads Tigers past Hatters in season opener

by - Senior Writer -
Rod Hall (12) drives to the basket while being defended by Stetson Hatters guard Aaron Graham (11) during the first half at J.C. Littlejohn Coliseum.  (Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports)
Rod Hall (12) drives to the basket while being defended by Stetson Hatters guard Aaron Graham (11) during the first half at J.C. Littlejohn Coliseum. (Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports)

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Brad Brownell Brad Brownell
Head Coach
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said recently that junior swingman K.J. McDaniels K.J. McDaniels
Jr. Forward
#32 6-6, 200
Birmingham, AL

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has taken ownership of the Tiger basketball team off the court, becoming the team leader a young team desperately needs.

Friday night in Littlejohn Coliseum, he showed that leadership on the court.

McDaniels scored the first 11 points for the Tigers and finished with a career-high 20 points as Clemson opened the 2013-14 season with a 71-51 win over Stetson in front of a sparse crowd at Littlejohn, Clemson’s 29th straight season-opening victory.

McDaniels also had seven rebounds, tying Josh SmithJosh Smith
So. Forward
#33 6-8, 260
Charlotte, NC

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for the team lead. Point guard Rod HallRod Hall
Jr. Guard
#4 6-1, 210
Augusta, GA

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added 11 points and Damarcus HarrisonDamarcus Harrison
Jr. Guard
#21 6-4, 200
Greenwood, SC

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10 for the Tigers.

McDaniels said he not only wanted to be a leader for the younger players, he wanted to set the tone early.

“It’s a good feeling to go out there and lead the team by example,” McDaniels said after the game. “The more I can do that, the more it will rub off on them. I wanted to set it off from the beginning. We had to have the right energy and the confidence in each other and that is what we did. I wanted to shoot when I was open. I put in a lot of extra work in the summer, and I believe it paid off. I have to keep shooting.”

McDaniels and the Tigers used a 33-5 run over the last 15 minutes of the first half to lead 46-15 at the break. The Hatters changed to a zone defense to start the second half and began to rally in the second half, trimming Clemson’s advantage to 65-49 heading into the final two minutes.

McDaniels returned to the floor and hit his fourth and final 3-pointer, effectively sealing the victory and allowing him to break his previous career-high of 17 points which he set last season against Virginia Tech.

“Great first half,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought we played about as well as you can play. Certainly, the second half left a little bit to be desired, but it’s hard to be disappointed in a 20-point win. I thought our guys really played well in the first 20 minutes and were active defensively. I thought we had some good penetration and played fast with low turnovers. For whatever reason, in the second half we came out a little sluggish. I think they regrouped and we took our foot off the accelerator a little bit.”

McDaniels, the top returning scorer, helped Clemson take control early as he hit three straight from beyond the arc and all of the Tiger’ first 11 points as Clemson raced to a 13-5 lead. Stetson had managed to trim the advantage to just 13-10 when the Tigers went on their run.

After Jordan RoperJordan Roper
So. Guard
#20 5-11, 165
Columbia, SC

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buried a three from the right wing to put Clemson up 28-12 with under eight to play, Stetson Head Coach Corey Williams – a former assistant at Florida St. - used his first timeout. The Tigers later used a 14-0 run punctuated by a pair of layups from red-shirt freshman Jaron BlossomgameJaron Blossomgame
RS Fr. Forward
#5 6-7, 215
Alpharetta, GA

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The Tigers held the Hatters scoreless from the 9:01 mark of the opening half until Brian Pegg converted a layup with 1:54 to go.

“I told our guys, the people that watched the first half and were at the game and left, they think we’re great now and we’re ready to beat the Lakers,” Brownell said. “If they watched the second half, they probably don’t think we can beat Edwards Middle School. We’re probably somewhere in between. Don’t apologize for a 20-point win at home.”

The Tigers were active in the transition game – especially in the first half – and pushed the tempo more than they did at any time last season, something that Brownell says will be a staple this season.

“I think we’re going to try to get up, when we can, get up and down. Some of the ability in the first half -- when you’re making that many stops -- you’ve got transition and you can go. In the second half, it slowed, because they’re scoring,” he said.

Clemson made 10-of-23 from three-point range, a 43 percent success rate. It was the most threes in a season opener by a Tiger team since the 2009-10 squad made 14 against Presbyterian.

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