Clemson advances to Charleston Classic championship, will face UMass

Clemson's K.J. McDaniels reaches out to try to block the shot of Davidson's Andrew McAuliffe in the first half at the Charleston Classic NCAA college basketball tournament in Charleston, S.C., Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. At bottom is Clemson's Damarcus Harrison. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Clemson coach Brad Brownell had to like what he saw Friday as his Tigers overpowered Davidson, 85-54, at TD Arena to advance to the championship game of the 2013 Charleston Classic.

A strong finish to the first half and an even stronger start in the second half allowed the unbeaten Tigers to cruise to their fifth victory of the season.

Clemson will be playing for its second Charleston Classic title in five years when the Tigers meet Massachusetts Sunday in a 9 p.m. game televised on ESPN2. Massachusetts shocked No. 19 New Mexico, 81-65, to advance to the title game. Clemson won the 2008 Charleston Classic, beating Temple for the title.

Clemson used solid defense and great shooting to win going away against Davidson, which fell to 1-4 this year.

The Tigers led by more than 30 points for much of the second half, allowing Brownell to empty his bench.

“This was a good win for our team,” Brownell said. “Davidson is very hard to guard, especially with one day of prep. Our defense did a great job. We were able to make them take tough shots.”

K.J. McDaniels led Clemson with a career-high 22 points, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Damarcus Harrison finished with 20, going 8 of 10 from the field including 3 of 4 3-pointers. Eleven Tigers had points.

“I wanted to be aggressive,” Harrison said. “We knew we had a size advantage. The main thing was attack. Our whole team played aggressive.”

Any chance Davidson had of getting back into the game disappeared when senior forward De’Mon Brooks went down with an injury with 12:12 remaining while battling for a rebound. Trainers were attending to his upper right leg and he hobbled out of the arena while being supported by two trainers. He finished the game with 12 points and 4 rebounds.

The Tigers went on a 13-2 run and opened up a 24-15 lead midway through the first half. McDaniels, who finished the first half with 19 points, scored eight during that burst including back-to-back 3-pointers, one from the left wing and one from the right wing.

Davidson kept in touch and whittled it to five points, 33-28, with Brooks getting a pair of quick baskets in the bank, one a crowd-pleasing dunk. Brooks had an opportunity to cut Clemson’s lead to three but missed a pair of free throws.

An 8-0 run by the Tigers put them up by 13 at 41-28 and they took a 10-point lead at the break.

The Tigers had an impressive first-half shooting performance, hitting 17 of 28 field goal attempts (60.7 percent) and were 5 for 9 from 3-point distance after starting 5 for 6. Davidson shot 43.8 percent (14 of 32).

Clemson continued its solid play and started the second half and soon was up 51-35. The Tigers continued to shoot well and were up by 34, 72-38, on an alley-oop dunk by Damarcus Harrison and Clemson’s biggest lead was 36.

The Tigers shot 61 percent (33 of 54) and hit 10 of 19 3-pointers after a 5 for 6 start. Clemson also enjoyed a 36-23 rebounding advantage.

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