CLEMSON - Almost ten minutes in Tuesday night, Clemson had a seven-point lead on N.C. State – and not a field goal from star junior K.J. McDaniels.
Of course, it helped that the No. 1 to his No. 2 in conference scoring, sophomore Wolfpack forward T.J. Warren, didn't have one either, but in a battle of the best of the rest, the Tiger supporting class that had struggled all season – had something going.
Clemson rode that formula to a rare offensive exhibition in Littlejohn Coliseum, breaking a three-game losing streak with a 73-56 win over the Wolfpack.
Clemson 73, NC State 56
Tigers inch above .500 in ACC
Hall led the attack from the get-go, a drive from the opening tip giving Clemson an edge they would hold over 19 and half minutes in the first half. A Hall drive-and-score kicked off the second half as well, continuing his run to a career-high 20 points.
Leading a plus-18 scoring margin in the second session, junior guard Damarcus Harrison scored 11 (finishing with 14) and Jaron Blossomgame seven points, both contributing to a 3-of-6 effort from the perimeter.
Sophomore center Landry Nnoko (flu) returned to action after missing the Virginia game and made an instant impact. The Cavaliers were plus-13 in rebound margin Saturday, but Clemson finished plus-seven on the night, while Nnoko totaled nine points and six boards.
McDaniels, who scored 54 points in two games last week, put up 12 points, but added a second game with six blocks in his last three outings.
"We felt like (Hall) could get into the paint against their smaller guards and have a chance to do some things," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "He needs to be able to do that against certain teams. This was one where we felt like he could get us off to a good start and he did. They tried to take K.J. away with some box-and-one and triangle-and-two.
"When those things happen, your other guys have to step up and make plays. We try to do some things as coaches, but at the end of the day, when those are the options - they're forcing your other guys to make plays...I thought we were an aggressive, confident team tonight."
The Augusta, Ga. native responded to his coaches' challenge.
"It was all me and coach (Earl) Grant were talking about was getting more aggressive and more chances," Hall said. "I just took what the defense gave me and made plays."
McDaniels' first field goal came via jump-shot, but he finished with a quiet six points in the first 20 minutes. Hall stuffed the statsheet with 10, including two layups plus the foul shot, and a pair of assists.
The Tigers (16-9, 7-6 ACC) led by as much as 12, forcing eight turnovers in the first 13 minutes.
N.C. State (16-10, 6-7) role players weren't letting Clemson run away though, with 10 points off the bench during a 19-6 run to lead 33-32 at the half. The Wolfpack shot 55 percent from the field, and Brownell wasn't pleased.
"I told them they shouldn't be happy and disappointed," Brownell said. "I told them they should be upset. If we don't defend, we're not going to win."
And they responded, holding the Wolfpack to 38.5 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes.
Tigers post complete effort
Bit-by-bit, Clemson pulled away – a Blossomgame 3-pointer here – a McDaniels putback slam there. For much of the half, they shot 50 percent or better.
Over a seven-minute span, they put some distance between them on a 12-0 run, where N.C. State missed six consecutive shots.
"I felt good about the game and thought we were going to play well," said Brownell. "I told the guys that. We had a great practice Sunday after the tough loss (to Virginia)...We needed that tonight. They obviously threw a bunch at us. Except at the bad play at the end of the first half, we played exceptionally well for 30-plus minutes of the game."
The Wolfpack looked out of gas to coach Mark Gottfried, coming off a heartbreaking one-point loss at No. 1 Syracuse Saturday.
"I thought our kids played really hard," Gottfried said. "I thought our guys played really hard and theirs did too. Brad has done a terrific job with this team. They played well and had other guys step up and score...That wasn't the N.C. State team I've been watching for the last 16 or 17 days. We were definitely a step slow tonight."
Clemson reached 60 points for the first time in regulation in six games, with 7:06 to go, and topped 70 for the first time since Jan. 11 (72-59 versus Duke).