K.J. McDaniels has yet to reveal whether or not his last college basketball game will come when Clemson finishes competition in the 2014 National Invitation Tournament.
On Tuesday in front of 3,859 fans at Littlejohn Coliseum, however, the junior certainly played like he wanted to hang around campus a little while longer.
McDaniels posts career night in NIT
McDaniels finished with 30 points — 17 coming in the first half — to help the Tigers take down Georgia State 78-66 in the opening round of the NIT. He also added 14 rebounds for the double-double.
“We didn’t want to see our season end,” McDaniels said. “We were definitely disappointed that we didn’t make the NCAA Tournament but we want to keep playing and getting better.”
With the bracket’s top seed, St. John’s, losing to Robert Morris on Tuesday, No. 3 seed Clemson (21-12) can now enjoy home court advantage until the NIT moves to New York and Madison Square Garden for the semifinals.
“That’s big,” McDaniels said. “We want to keep playing and to be able to play at home is great.”
Of course to remain in the friendly confines Brad Brownell’s team has to keep winning, and the ACC reps successfully took the first step against their Sun Belt foes.
“A good win tonight,” Brownell said. “Georgia State is a good team. We did some good things against the zone and certainly K.J. was fantastic.”
The victory did not come easily.
Georgia State (25-9) took a 40-39 lead early in the second half and trailed just 50-49 with 11:12 to go.
But with 7:54 remaining and the Tigers leading 54-49, Panthers coach Ron Hunter was issued a technical foul after his squad drew a whistle.
McDaniels hit one of two tech shots, Damarcus Harrison sank both ends of a 1-and-1, and soon the winners were in front, 57-49.
Two more free throws made it a 10-point game and the regular season Sun Belt champs never fully recovered.
“We lost to a great Clemson team tonight,” Hunter said. “But we showed we can play with some people.”
McDaniels helped Clemson get off to a hot start, and the hosts grabbed early leads of 9-3 and 14-7.
But after the visitors settled down they got right back in the mix, going on a 9-0 run and taking a 19-18 lead with 6:22 left in the period.
Back came the Tigers — and McDaniels.
No. 32 drained a three and then delivered a monster dunk to spark an 11-0 surge that helped Clemson regain the upper hand at 31-23.
Clemson 78, GSU 66
Big night from McDaniels as Tigers move ...
Hunter’s team refused to go away, though, and when Manny Atkins nailed a three with :04 showing on the first half clock it cut the advantage to 35-32.
That’s where the game stood heading into the final 20 minutes — and it was a good enough 20 minutes by the Tigers to extend their season.
Aside from McDaniels’ big night Harrison had 17 points and Jordan Roper added 11.
“Damarcus and Jordan were good sidekicks in the game,” Brownell said.
R.J. Hunter topped the Panthers’ scoring charts with 15 points, followed by Ryan Harrow (13), Devonta White (13), Atkins (12) and Curtis Washington (11).
Clemson won the rebounding battle 39-34 and shot 51 percent for the game.
“I’ll be very surprised if Clemson isn’t in the NIT finals,” Hunter said. “That’s a good team that beat us tonight.”