By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Like any good leader, Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels stood tall when reporters fired questions at him about yet another loss at North Carolina, the lack of offense the Tigers had for a second straight game and the issues they had defensively in the 80-61 loss.
“I need to do more as a leader and get my guys together,” the junior said afterwards.
McDaniels did all he could do on the floor and then some. He scored a team-high 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds while dishing out two assists as well. But it did not take too long for the Tar Heels to realize McDaniel was the only guy doing the work. They zoned in on the Clemson forward and made life on the basketball court difficult at the Dean Smith Center on Sunday.
“Credit North Carolina, they played great defense tonight,” McDaniels said. “They locked in on me on their scouting report. I felt like I was trying to be aggressive but they were all zoned up on me and they play great team defense and held us.”
At one point in the second half, the Tar Heels held Clemson to 19 percent shooting, while building a 31-point lead. The Tigers went 13 minutes and seven seconds without a field goal from the six minute mark of the first half to the 13-minute mark of the second half.
The Tigers (13-6, 4-3 ACC) finished the game shooting 34 percent from the field, including six of 10 from behind the three-point line in the last 20 minutes. The bad news is all of that came after the Tar Heels went up 54-23 with 13:25 to play.
Center Landry Nnoko finished with 12 points, while guard Adonis Filer came off the bench to score 12 more. But before that McDaniels did not have much help.
“I feel like some of the guys tried, but we missed a few shots we should have made,” McDaniels said.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell likes that McDaniels is hard on himself and is trying to be the leader his team desperately needs, but he says McDaniels has no business feeling that way in regards to the North Carolina game.
“K.J. competed at a high level today,” Brownell said. “He played harder than anyone on our team. He played well tonight. He was 4-12 with nine rebounds and 13 points and those were hard earned points because he does not have enough help right now and I thought he played pretty well when their whole team is geared to stop him.”
Brownell says McDaniels will eventually become the kind of guy that will get in his teammates face and challenge them more when they have nights like Sunday and are not finding ways to help him.
“It will come. He is not there, yet. He is not frustrated enough,” Brownell said. “He is too nice of a guy, but he will get to a point where if it continues, he will. Our players need to understand that from within, they need to have some spirit and some fight in them.
“Coaches can talk about things, we can practice things, but they have to invest and they have to make sure they are hurting over this.”
And they can’t always rely on McDaniels to pull them out of it.