In a much anticipated matchup of two teams featuring super-talented scorers who typically don’t get a lot of help, North Carolina State sophomore forward T.J. Warren won the individual battle, fighting through foul trouble to score a game-high 20 points with five rebounds — though he did turn the ball over six times, as well. Clemson Tigers junior forward K.J. McDaniels, who sometimes finds himself as the lone player scoring in double figures for Clemson, chipped in a relatively low 12 points with four rebounds, but he added six blocks.
But for one night anyway, McDaniels got plenty of help, much more than Warren did, and Clemson blew out N.C. State 73-56 at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C. After giving up 33 points to the Wolfpack in the first half and going into the break down a point, the Tigers played much more of their trademark defense in the second half, holding N.C. State to just 23 points in the final 20 minutes, while scoring 41, to pull away.
Warren’s story is much of what the Wolfpack have dealt with all season long. He led the team in scoring, including a stretch of seven straight midway through the second half. But shortly after that, Warren picked up his third foul and had to waste some minutes on the bench. Guard Ralston Turner was the only other N.C. State player to score in double figures, finishing with 11. But he needed 10 shots form the field to get that, hitting just 3-for-10.
The story, for once, was much different for the Tigers, who got a glimpse of the kind of team they need to be if they are going to make a late-season run in the ACC and earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament. Point guard Rod Hall, who had scored less than 10 points in seven of Clemson’s last eight games, hit for a team-high 20 Tuesday night. Hall was 6-for-11 from the field and 8-for-8 from the free-throw line. The work from the line wasn’t much of a surprise, as Hall has only missed 22 free throws this season. But he rarely has been involved enough in the offense to get to the line eight times in a game. Clemson improved to 3-2 on the season when Hall scores at least 14 points. Clemson junior guard Damarcus Harrison also stepped up to assist McDaniels, scoring 14 points.
And while Warren might have scored more than McDaniels, it was the Clemson standout who had the two signature individual plays of the evening. Late in the first half, with Warren headed to the rim for a seemingly easy layup, McDaniels caught Warren and emphatically rejected the shot from behind. With 3:32 left in the game, McDaniels rebounded a missed Clemson (16-9, 7-6 ACC) shot at the rim and threw it down with authority to put an exclamation point on the Clemson victory. Clemson can be very good the rest of the way if it plays like it did tonight. N.C. State (16-10, 6-7), on the other hand, can’t be a success with Warren serving as a one-man show.