The Clemson Tigers have a player in K.J. McDaniels who may be the best all-around player in the ACC. If the Tigers had anything of note around him, the Tigers would be a contender in the ACC title race. Instead, the Tigers the Bad News Bears to McDaniels’ Kelly Leak, and all that’s left is for McDaniels to go riding off into the sunset on his motorcycle.
Clemson fell in double overtime at Notre Dame on Tuesday night 68-64 despite a magical night from McDaniels, who for a while appeared as if he was trying to boost his own RPI with a key conference road win all by himself. McDaniels, who fouled out in the final seconds, finished the game with 30 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and three steals.
He did have a chance to end matters in the first overtime, but his open 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark. That said, it’s not fair to blame McDaniels for not sinking that shot, considering everything else he did do to keep the Tigers in the game, and the almost complete lack of support he got from the rest of his team.
To put it in perspective, McDaniels’ 30 points represented almost half of Clemson’s total. Guard Rod Hall (12) was the only other Tiger in double figures. McDaniels’ 14 rebounds were 35 percent of his team’s total on the night. Eight of those were offensive rebounds, of which the rest of his team only had nine. The five blocks by McDaniels were the only blocks Clemson registered in the game.
It was McDaniels who made a key steal and then put home a breakaway dunk with a minute left in regulation to cut the Notre Dame lead to one. He hit three field goals in the two overtimes, but wasn’t even given the ball on some possessions, including a key one late where Hall settled for a poor 3-point shot down four, rather than find McDaniels. He had three assists; Hall, the starting point guard, had just two.
McDaniels is a force at both ends of the court, and much like Barry Sanders during his days at running back with the Detroit Lions, you have to wonder sometimes how the Tigers don’t simply try to find McDaniels on every play, much like Detroit’s offense should have just been Barry left, Barry middle, Barry right. He hit 13-of-24 from the field, while the rest of his team shot an awful 11-for-46 (24 percent). He hit 4-for-8 from 3-point range — his teammates were 3-for-21.
With the loss, Clemson fell to 15-8, 6-5 in the ACC. Once on the outside of the ACC title race, the Tigers now must figure out to help McDaniels in any way possible just to keep from falling out of the NCAA tournament picture completely.