CLEMSON - Clemson forward Ibrahim Djambo had hit three of his first 21 3-point attempts this season, and on a run of eight consecutive misses, until Saturday.
Tigers coach Brad Brownell told the 6-10 junior college transfer to just keep on shooting, and nailing a three and dishing a key assist down the stretch against Wake Forest, Djambo sparked a Clemson surge and 61-53 win.
"I'm just trying to stay ready every time that I have a chance to be on the court," Djambo said. "They always tell you that you don't know when your name will be called so be ready.
Clemson 61, Wake Forest 53
"We have a lot of good players on the team. Coach is trying to manage everybody so it can be my time tonight or tomorrow somebody else. That's how good we are. Everybody is working and you have to give it your best shot."
Clemson improved to 13-4, and more importantly, 4-1 in ACC play for the first time 1996-97 (only the fourth time in school history), sharing a spot in second place atop the conference.
Wake Forest (12-6, 2-3) became the 14th team in this Tiger season's 17 games to be held to 60 points or less by the nation's top scoring defense.
"We're off to a good start and we're playing well," Brownell said. "But it's a long distance race and we have some tough games coming up. We've been opportunistic and found ways to win some close games. We're still growing and improving as a team, but I'm certainly proud of our guys."
After an over five-minute field goal drought to start, Djambo's first trey rallied Clemson from an early deficit. The rest of the half was neck-and-neck from there.
Tigers leading scorer K.J. McDaniels contributed eight rebounds before notching a point, but his best was yet to come. Sophomore guard Adonis Filer led the way at the break with six points in the 26-25 Clemson lead.
"I didn’t think we played real well in the first half and as a coaching staff," Brownell said, "We didn’t help our guys enough. I thought Wake was a little more aggressive than I thought they would be and it probably threw us off a little bit. We just got off to a bad start but I thought we were very good defensively, and that kept us in the game.
"Going into halftime I hoped that we would find our offense a little bit better and get some things figured out to win the game."
A four-point game with under six to go, Djambo fed McDaniels for an assist and then knocked down a three from the corner to give the Tigers some breathing room. A Landy Nnoko block, as one of five on the game for Clemson, and a K.J. McDaniels drive and one-handed slam energized the crowd late pulling away.
"I was just in more of an attack mode in the second half," McDaniels said. "The defense starts our offense. We gain energy from it. We work hard and it gets us out in transition."
McDaniels finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
For a fourth consecutive game, Clemson limited the opponent's leading scorer – in this case Wake Forest sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who posted six first-half points and missed all seven second-half attempts to finish there. In the stretch, they have kept the opposing leader to under 10 points per game (9.8).
Meanwhile, Deacs forward Tyler Cavanaugh had a redemptive game, scoring 12 points after missing his first 11 shots in his last game in Littlejohn.
Clemson's ACC-pacing free throw shooting lived up to reputation again, sinking 18-of-21 attempts. Junior guard Damarcus Harrison knocked down all six of his tries.
Clemson matched its 2012-13 season win total, which was a fifth-straight in the series with the Deacs. Wake Forest hasn't won an ACC road game since January 2012.