CLEMSON — K.J. McDaniels scored a career-high 20 points and Clemson used a big first-half run to put away Stetson 71-51 Friday, the Tigers’ 29th straight season-opening victory.
McDaniels scored his team’s first 11 points, and the Tigers used a 33-5 run the last 15 minutes of the opening half to lead 46-15 at the break. Stetson rallied in the second half, cutting Clemson’s lead to 65-49 in the final two minutes. But McDaniels connected on his fourth and final 3-pointer on the Tigers next trip down court to surpass his previous best of 17 points, which he last reached this past season against Virginia Tech.
McDaniels also had seven rebounds, tying Josh Smith for the team lead.
Aaron Graham led the Hatters with 11 points, all but one in the opening half.
Point guard Rod Hall added 11 points and Damarcus Harris 10 for the Tigers.
Clemson is after a bounce-back season after finishing 13-18 a year ago, the program’s first losing mark since 2003-04. The Tigers wore down at the end in 2012-13, losing 10 of their final 11 games to tie for 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The team is also looking to replace some significant leadership, scoring and rebounding punch from last season with the losses of 6-8 Devin Booker and 6-9 Milton Jennings, who combined for nearly 24 points and 14 rebounds a year ago.
Clemson does not have a senior on its roster. McDaniels, the top returning scorer, took control early as he hit three straight 3-pointers and scored the team’s first 11 points as the Tigers broke on top 13-5.
Stetson cut things to 13-10 on Graham’s bucket before Clemson took off on its game-changing run.
The Hatters were 3-for-5 shooting in the first five minutes, then 2 for 19 the rest of the half as Clemson left the floor ahead 46-15. Nine of Stetson’s first-half turnovers came during the Tigers surge.
First-year Stetson coach Corey Williams was a Florida State assistant the past six years accustomed to going toe-to-toe with the Tigers — the Seminoles were 8-5 against Clemson during Williams’ time there. But the Hatters could not overcome Clemson’s depth as coach Brad Brownell shuttled players in and out to wear down the Hatters, who shot less than 35 percent (17 of 49) for the game.
The Tigers finished 10 of 23 on 3-pointers. They reached double-digits for three-point goals just twice in 31 games last season.