Tigers get strong second half, beat Wake to improve to 4-1 in the ACC

by - Senior Writer -
<span style=Photo by Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports">
Photo by Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

CLEMSON – Damarcus Harrison hit two free throws in the final minute and Clemson hit 14-of-23 second half shots as the Tigers defeated Wake Forest 61-53 Saturday afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum.

K.J. McDaniels scored 15 points and Jordan Roper added 11 as Clemson improved to 13-4 overall and 4-1 in the ACC. Coron Williams led three Wake Forest players in double figures with 13 points. This is the first Clemson team to start 4-1 in the ACC since the 1996-97 season.

Clemson owns a five-game winning streak in the series and has won four straight over the Demon Deacons in Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Tigers will play five of their next six games on the road, including road games at Pitt, North Carolina, Florida St. Syracuse and Notre Dame. The lone home game during the stretch is Tuesday, February 4th against Georgia Tech.

“It was certainly a hard-fought win today,” Clemson head coach Brad BrownellBrad Brownell
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said. “I don’t think we played really well in the first half, especially offensively. That was a problem, and as a coaching staff I don’t think we helped our guys enough. Wake played more aggressive on defense than I thought they would, and that threw us off initially. But we were very good defensively in the first half and that kept us in the game, and going in at the half we hoped we could find our offense in the second half.”

Brownell said the win was big considering the stretch of road games staring the Tigers in the face.

“We are off to a good start and playing well,” he said. “But there are a lot of rough games and we now have a difficult stretch. But we have started the year well and gotten a couple of road wins. We’ve found a way to win some games, and that is good. We are proud of the way the guys came back from Christmas and we are proud of how they played since then. I know we have Pitt Tuesday and North Carolina next Sunday, but a lot of teams have grinders. I know some of them have three out of four on the road, but I really didn’t see where a lot of teams have five out of six. But we have to find some grit and toughness and find a way to come out of this.”

The Tigers led 57-50 with just under a minute remaining, but Harrison hit all four of his foul shots in the final minute and Wake was unable to mount much of a charge in falling 12-6 overall, 2-3 in the ACC.

Both teams found scoring difficult in the first half, with Wake shooting 33.3 percent from the field (10-for—30) and Clemson 30 percent (6-for-20).

The Deacons led 3-0 before Rod Hall finally got the Tigers on the board with two free throws at just over three minutes into the game. The Tigers then wouldn’t score over the next two minutes, and the Deacons took their biggest lead of the half at 7-2.

The Tigers eventually tied the score at seven on a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Ibrahim Djambo at the 14:53 mark. Both teams went back-and-forth over the next five minutes, but two free throws by Damarcus Harrison gave Clemson its first lead at 15-14 with 6:46 left in the half.

The Tigers, buoyed by hitting 13-of-14 free throws and Adonis Filer’s six points, eventually led 26-25 at intermission.

The Deacons came out hot to start the second half and a controversial goaltending call and foul called on a shot by Wake’s Tyler Cavanaugh resulted in a 32-30 Wake lead a little over two minutes into the half. However, K.J. McDaniels hit a layup to tie the score and a 3-pointer by Jordan Roper gave the lead back to the Tigers. The Tigers forced Wake to miss two shots under the basket on the ensuing possession, and McDaniels grabbed Roper’s miss of a 3-pointer and hit a layup for a 37-32 lead, prompting a Wake timeout.

The Deacons pulled to within two at 43-41 on a jumper with 12 minutes remaining, but the Tigers then went on a 9-4 run over the next eight minutes. The run was punctuated by Djambo’s second 3-pointer, this one from the left corner, and Clemson led 52-45 with 3:29 remaining in the game.

Wake missed a 3-point attempt with just over three minutes remaining, and McDaniels was fouled on the offensive end. However, he hit just one of two free throws and Clemson had its biggest lead of the night at 53-45 with 2:52 left on the game clock.

Wake Forest got a layup by Devin Thomas that helped the Deacons close to within 53-47 with 2:31 remaining, and the Deacs called a timeout to set up the full court press. The Tigers got the ball over halfcourt, and McDaniels drove to the hoop for a highlight reel dunk that put Clemson ahead 55-47 with just under two minutes remaining.

Wake hit one free throw that made it 55-48, and Brownell called timeout with 1:11 remaining on the game clock and six seconds left on the shot clock to set up a play. Filer appeared to stumble after taking the inbounds pass, but stumbled into the lane and hit a layup as the shot clock expired for a 57-48 lead. The Deacons responded with a layup at the other end and called a timeout with Clemson leading 57-50 with 48.3 seconds remaining on the game clock.

Brownell said Filer has been improving his game.

“He has done a good job of improving, and his turnovers have been down,” Brownell said. “We have been trying to get him more efficient, and hit singles and doubles and not go for the home run so much. But we called a timeout there and he made a heck of a play. That is what he can do. He has a herky jerky game and he can get by you and create some angles to get into the paint.”

Harrison hit two free throws to put Clemson up 59-50, but Coron Williams hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key that made it 59-53 with 22.2 seconds remaining. Filer missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but the Deacons failed to capitalize on the offensive end, giving Harrison the chance to extend the lead. He hit both, sealing the win as Clemson led 61-53 with just over 11 seconds remaining. The Deacons then turned it over on the offensive end, and Clemson ran out the final two seconds for the win.

Brownell said the win was big considering the stretch of road games staring the Tigers in the face.

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