TALLAHASEE, Fla. - Birmingham, Ala., native K.J. McDaniels had his mom, grandmother, brother, sister, aunt and a handful of cousins travel to Florida State to see him and Clemson face the Seminoles on Saturday. That, in addition to a five-game losing streak to Florida State, provided all the motivation the Atlantic Coast Conference's 10th leading scorer needed.
McDaniels put up 26 points as Clemson defeated Florida State, 53-49, on the road in ACC action. He was one point shy of a career high as McDaniels' family drowned out most of the Florida State crowd throughout the second half.
"Florida State, they're a great defensive team, they're a long team," McDaniels said. "I just had to find those open spots to get to and try to wedge my way through there.
"My shoot-around this morning was great. I felt like I had the right energy and I had so much confidence. I've always had good games in here. I like Florida State. I like their court. Just going out there being aggressive and playing as hard as I can for my team."
The Tigers (14-6, 5-3) survived a slow-moving defensive battle in which both teams failed to shoot 40 percent from the floor most of the game. The Seminoles led 20-17 at halftime, but an 11-2 run midway through the second half gave Clemson a 40-32 lead that it never gave up.
Jeron Blossomgame scored 10 points and Jordan Roper added eight for the Tigers. McDaniels' three 3-pointers tied the second-most he's hit all season.
"KJ was unbelievable tonight," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "He played at an exceptionally high level. I'm hoping that people in this league take notice of that.
"He's our best player. We try to put the ball in his hands to make plays."
The Tigers finished shooting 43.2 percent from the floor after shooting 28.6 percent in the first half. They broke a two-game losing streak.
Florida State (13-8, 4-5) dropped its third consecutive game as Okaro White was held to nine points. Ian Miller, who entered the game as the Seminoles' leading scorer, suffered a sprained ankle in the first half and did not return. Aaron Thomas scored a team-high 13 points while Florida State shot just 34 percent (16 of 47) from the floor.
"Our defense is way better than it's been the last two games," Blossomgame said. "We've been working on that hard in practice all week and it finally showed on the court.
"We had a tough practice all week. We were getting our nasty back, as coach would say, on defense. We've just been focusing on a lot of one-on-one defense in practice and it (showed) out on the court today."
Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton was unsure about Miller's health and said the team will need more production from its big men. If Miller misses time, that's 13.3 points missing each night.
"We're going to hope that he goes to church tomorrow and gets some divine intervention so he'll be able to give us some help on Wednesday," Hamilton said.
The Seminoles, who scored a season-low 49 points and shot just 34 percent from the floor, have lost a season-high three consecutive games. Hamilton entered his postgame news conference and said in a soft tone, "I can't say what I really want to say."
"Obviously the game was at a pace that really challenged us a little bit more tonight than we've been accustomed to," Hamilton said. "Clemson did a very good job of controlling the tempo. They were content to make it a 12-second possession game. I think that we got lulled into playing the game at their pace.
"When Ian went out, it really challenged our rotation and it became a real slow-paced game."
Clemson hosts Georgia Tech on Tuesday as Florida State hosts Virginia Tech on Wednesday.
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.