By Staff Reports.
The main reason Clemson lost 62-57 to Wake Forest Thursday night was simple. The Tigers’ best player had a bad night.
Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels scored only 10 points, shot 3-of-11 from the field, was 1-of-7 from the three-point line and 3-of-6 from the foul line.
“Our best player had a tough night tonight,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “K.J. has played great all season, but he had a tough night tonight and we did not do enough to help him.”
McDaniels did not help himself, either. The junior had a chance to tie the game with 1:41 to play when he stepped to the line with the Tigers (17-10, 8-7 ACC) down 56-54. But he air-balled the first free throw and then missed the front end of the second.
“This was one of those nights where we as a team have to help that guy a little bit at times and he probably got a little frustrated,” Brownell said.
Though Jaron Blossomgame tipped the ball to the back court on the rebound, point guard Rod Hall was too far back and Wake recovered the loose ball and then Cody Miller-McIntyre made a layup while being fouled by Hall.
The three-point play changed the momentum of the game and when McDaniels turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, the game was all but over. The loss also is a setback to the Tigers’ chances at making the NCAA Tournament.
Clemson entered the game with a No. 67 ranking in the latest RPI, but losing to Wake Forest—a team that had a seven-game losing streak coming in—will send that ranking spiraling down.
“We let one get away, certainly,” Brownell said. “We played reasonably well in the first half and I thought we were okay defensively. We turned the ball over and that was a problem, but guys were reasonably good at making some plays and Demarcus (Harrison) was good.”
Harrison led the Tigers with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-7 from behind the arc. The junior drained back-to-back three-pointers late that brought Clemson within two points, 56-54, with 2:12 to play.
Clemson used a 9-0 run late in the first half to take a 30-20 lead as Hall and Harrison hit three-pointers in the run. Clemson led 30-23 at the break.
“The biggest thing I told the guys at halftime is that we have not been in this position on the road,” Brownell said. “We are usually within five or six points and I’m saying we are in good position to go steal a road win. Just go play well in the second half.
“Today I said we have to the same thing. We need to go out there and step on their throats and tell them that they are not going to have a chance tonight and play the first four minutes really well.”
But the Tigers did not do that. Instead, the offense went cold in the second half and they struggled defensively as the Demon Deacons shot 59.1 percent from the field.
“We did not do it at all,” Brownell said. “We got out of character and settled for too many threes. Credit Wake, though. They went to a zone and it bothered us. And defensively we got hurt in some spots guarding them.
“It felt like tonight, we never got one of those momentum swinging plays in the second half.”