FAYETTEVILLE, AR – Clemson trimmed a 16-point deficit to four in the final stages of Saturday’s game at Arkansas, but the Razorbacks ultimately held on to prevail with a 74-68 victory over the Tigers at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas improved to 6-2 with the win, while Clemson dropped to 7-2 with the loss. Saturday’s game was the start of a home-and-home series with the Razorbacks. Arkansas will come to Littlejohn Coliseum in 2014-15.
K.J. McDaniels was the star of the game Saturday. The Tiger junior made 9-of-17 field goals and all eight of his free throws for a game-high 27 points. It was a career-high for the Birmingham, AL native, who was playing against two close friends from his hometown Saturday. He added 11 rebounds in one of the most impressive all-around games in recent memory by a Clemson player. Damarcus Harrison added 13 and Rod Hall posted 10.
Clemson struggled to shoot the ball Saturday, making just 32.8 percent of its field goals and only 3-of-15 from three. The Tigers did a good job at the free throw line, converting 25-of-29 for an 86 percent mark. Clemson had a +15 rebound margin Saturday, including +11 on the offensive glass, yet Arkansas won the second-chance points battle 15-14. The Tigers dominated the paint, 34-12, but were outscored by 19 in terms of bench points.
The Tigers did a great job driving early and getting to the free throw line, where they converted 7-of-8 attempts to take a 13-10 lead. But Qualls answered with eight quick points to give the Hogs a five-point lead at 11:33 remaining. The lead reached seven at 24-17 before Harrison sparked a 9-0 run that culminated with a pair of jams by McDaniels.
Arkansas answered with back-to-back threes to regain the lead at 30-26, but an acrobatic tip-in by McDaniels brought the Tigers within a pair. The Hogs finished the half on a 10-4 run from that point on to take a 40-32 lead into the half.
The three-point barrage continued at the outset of the second half, as the Razorbacks quickly made a pair to boost the lead to 14 points and prompt a Brad Brownell timeout. Hall scored Clemson’s first six points after the break to keep the team within striking distance, but Arkansas was able to keep a relatively stable working margin most of the half.
Clemson frantically pulled within four inside the final stages of the game. After some Razorback difficulties at the free throw line, Clemson chipped away in the final three minutes. McDaniels’ fourth slam made it 70-66 with less than 30 seconds to play.
The Tigers break for a week for final exams before returning to action on Saturday, Dec. 14 against Furman in a 7 p.m. tipoff from Littlejohn Coliseum.