K.J. McDaniels has been a star for the Tigers and among ACC peers all season.
But playing in front of family down from his Birmingham hometown, McDaniels went off with a spectacular 26-point, 7-rebound performance, leading Clemson to its third ACC road win of the season at Florida State, 53-49.
At the half, the junior swingman had nine of the Tigers’ 17 points, as Clemson trailed by 3.
In the second half, McDaniels took over.
Shooting woes plagued Clemson (14-6, 5-3 ACC) last time out at UNC, and Saturday afternoon at the Tucker Center appeared no different.
From the 6:08 mark in the first until almost two minutes into the second half, Clemson couldn’t muster a field goal…until McDaniels hit a 3-pointer. It wouldn’t be his last long-distance make, and stemming the tide of each attempted FSU run, he had an answer on his way to 26 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.
"Offensively in the second half we figured some things out and did a better job of driving the ball and making better reads," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "Obviously, K.J. was fantastic and another level guy today. Certainly was a huge difference for our team.
"His play in the first half gave the rest of our guys some confidence."
Redshirt freshman forward Jaron Blossomgame posted his second-best conference performance, adding 10 points and 6 rebounds – including a dagger from the perimeter to essentially put the Seminoles away with under two to go. Clemson hit its most 3-point attempts in 11 games (7), out of 19 attempts (5-10 in the second half).
From mid-first half on, Florida State (13-8, 4-5) was without its leading scorer, guard Ian Miller, with an ankle injury. But the Seminoles couldn’t muster any offensive flow all game. Sophomore guard Aaron Thomas was the only FSU player to reach double-digits (13). The Seminoles were held 34 percent shooting and became the seventh team to be held to 50 or less points by the Tigers this season.
"We felt like we could guard them again," Brownell said, recalling the 56-41 loss at home back in January. "Basically when we lost at our place, they scored 40 percent of their points off from turnovers. We had a lot of turnovers and looked bad in the first half today, but the best thing about it is they weren’t live-ball turnovers."
The Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak, where they were outscored 156-104 at Pittsburgh and UNC last week. It also snapped a five-game losing run to the ‘Noles. It was the first time in Clemson history that the Tigers won on the road after losing by four or more points at home to the same team in the same season (0-74 previously).
"I’m just really proud of our players," said Brownell. "We had three really great days of practice. Guys came in with great life and energy and we practiced hard. We had a little extra time and put in a little more fundamental stuff in. That helped us.
"We tried to build them back and get them confident. Let them know that we can play some good basketball and we’re going to have a bad week every once in a while in this league. Those weeks are out there."
After three-straight on the road, Clemson returns home on Tuesday to host Georgia Tech (8 p.m., ACC Network).