This one, like so many others, started off promising. Clemson grabbed the lead early behind hot outside shooting and the ability to capitalize off FSU's turnovers. The lead would eventually stretch to 34-24 with a just a couple minutes left in the first half. It could've easily been more, but Rod Hall and Jordan Roper both missed uncontested dunks/layups. With the lead 34-24, K.J. McDaniels sat down with his 2nd foul and FSU able to close the half on a 6-1 run.
In a half that Clemson dominated it seemed they should be up by double figures. The fact that FSU was able to cut the gap to 5 was very disappointing. FSU came out in the 2nd half, cut down on the turnovres, and locked Clemson down defensively. 10 minutes into the 2nd half Clemson had scored a whopping 6 points, allowing FSU to grab the lead. It was a lead that FSU would extend to 13 with just over 2 minutes remaining.
I would like to say Clemson mounted a furious rally, but for much of the time the rally came 1 point at a time. As was the story of this season, Clemson missed 6 foul shots in the last 4 minutes and numerous open 3-point looks. I said in the gamethread that this one would probably come down to a FT shooting contest because the referees were extremely quick on the whistle. As Clemson fans, we've become accustomed to losing that contest far too often. But the reality is Clemson should've never put themselves in that position. They should've put FSU behind the 8-ball in the 1st half when they were clearly outplaying them.
K.J. McDaniels was the star for Clemson in this one. He had at least 4 plays that are SportsCenter Top 10 worthy, including 3 dunks and a block of FSU's 7'2 center. He finished out the night with 16 points on a very efficient 6/9 shooting before fouling out with around 4 minutes to go. McDaniels took steps forward this year. He may have hit a wall midway through the season, but he has the potential to be an All-ACC caliber player. He needs to learn to bring his full energy every night. Sometimes it seems like that energy level only shows itself when he's able to get a highlight reel dunk or blocked shot. But if he can bring it every night, along with improving his ball handling and develop his mid-range game, he's got the makings of a good one. With his improved outside shot, excellent defense, and off the charts atheleticim, he's the guy you want to start building your team around.
Just because Clemson's season is done doesn't mean we're done with basketball here at STS. We'll continue to provide coverage throughout the NCAAT. We'll follow that up with our season recap and start looking ahead to next year.