Sluggish showing for N.C. State
It was the kind of Clemson victory K.J. McDaniels had envisioned all season — one where he's not doing all the work.
Rod Hall led the way for the Tigers with a career-high 20 points and Damarcus Harrison had 14 to go along with McDaniels' 12 points and six blocked shots in a 73-56 win over North Carolina State on Tuesday night.
McDaniels has averaged 17.3 points a game, fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, and carried more than his share of points for the Tigers (16-9, 7-6 ACC) during league play. He was happy and relieved to blend in against the Wolfpack (16-10, 6-7) and the league's top scorer T.J. Warren.
"I feel like we can perform at an extremely high level when everybody's in and everybody's focused," he said.
McDaniels' had his share of starring moments — he had a high-flying tip-in late that brought the crowd to its feet and five of his blocks came on the 6-foot-8 Warren — but it was the timely shooting of his Clemson teammates that ended the team's three-game losing streak.
Hall was the most dynamic, surpassing his old high of 18 points set against Southern Illinois in the 2011-12 season.
"I'm just trying to get everybody going because they feed off each other," said Hall, who reached double figure scoring for just the second time in Clemson's past nine games. "I took what the defense gave me and everybody else followed."
It was the first time Clemson surpassed 70 points in nine games since defeating Duke 72-59 on Jan. 11.
Clemson used a 24-9 run to start the second half and take control after squandering a 12-point lead in the first half to trail 33-32 at the break.
Tigers coach Brad Brownell liked his team's defense — the Tigers are second nationally in fewest points allowed — and was glad to see his players respond after giving up the lead.
"We defended really well against a team that scores," Brownell said.
This was Warren's eighth straight game with at least 20 points, but even he was part of an overall sluggish showing from the Wolfpack, said coach Mark Gottfried. North Carolina State led top-ranked Syracuse by a point in the final seconds last time out before succumbing to C.J. Fair's game-winning layup in a 56-55 loss.
Gottfried said his players seemed a step slow throughout, even during their first-half rally.
Warren led North Carolina State with 20 points, his eighth straight game with 20 or more points. Still, Warren committed six of his team's 14 turnovers.
"He did some things that he normally doesn't do," Gottfried said of Warren. "He missed some shots around the rim, bobbling the ball out of bounds, those are things T.J. doesn't do very often."
Ralston Turner had 11 points for the Wolfpack, none of those in the second half.
Clemson watched a 12-point lead slip away to trail 33-32 at the break. The Tigers, though, rallied back in the second half. Hall got the run started with a go-ahead basket and Harrison scored seven points in the charge.
By the time McDaniels hit two foul shots with 11:02 to go, the Tigers lead 56-42.
North Carolina State never got closer than seven points after that.
This was a contest both teams had to have — North Carolina State to continue its bounce back from 1-4 ACC start and Clemson to break a string of three straight losses after opening a surprising 6-3 in league play.
McDaniels and the Tigers had the better of things from the start. Clemson scored the game's first seven points and McDaniels had six points to help build a 26-14 lead with little more than seven left in the opening half.
That's when Warren and the Wolfpack figured out how to penetrate Clemson's defense, ranked second in the country and the ACC behind Virginia. North Carolina State finished the period with 19-6 run to move in front. Ralston Turner had his third 3-pointer of the period during the charge and BeeJay Anya had a pair of dunks to cut the lead to 32-31.
Warren followed an Austin Ajukwa miss with a fast-break layup with 5.6 seconds left to send the Wolfpack into the break with their first lead of the game.