CLEMSON - Another 26 points, 14 points and six blocks, ho-hum. But it was K.J. McDaniels' second assist against Maryland that helped keep Clemson's faint NCAA tournament at-large hopes alive.
McDaniels, double-teamed in the post late in double overtime, looked to the wing, where he saw junior guard Damarcus Harrison, who had been white-hot for two weeks but was struggling mighty on Sunday.
He was open, and that's all that mattered. Harrison had missed seven of his first nine attempts, but entrusted by McDaniels' delivery, Harrison swished a 3-pointer on his 10th try, and that's all that mattered as the Tigers took the lead for good.
"He's been playing great, and when it's big time, I know he'll knock it down," McDaniels said. "I have no problem passing to my teammates when I'm doubled. It makes me not have to do too much and force a bad shot, and we get an even better shot."
The maturation of Clemson's basketball program took a step forward with Sunday's survival as the fittest, edging Maryland, 77-73, in double overtime at Littlejohn Coliseum.
With both teams desperately needing a victory to keep faint NCAA tournament hopes alive, it was only fitting the Tigers (18-10, 9-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) and Terrapins (15-14, 7-9) waged a slugfest in their final regular season meeting as ACC combatants.
The win required McDaniels' seventh double-double and fifth 20-point, 10-rebound effort of the year, plus Harrison and Rod Hall shaking some early game shooting doldrums.
With 1:32 remaining in the second overtime period, Seth Allen's jumper gave Maryland a 71-70 edge, the 12th lead change of the afternoon.
McDaniels curled down to the post, met by two Terps defenders. He quickly kicked to Harrison, who knocked down his first 3-pointer of the day (ensuring his seventh straight game with a 3) to push Clemson ahead, 73-71.
"I wasn't really worried about it," Harrison said. "I was like, the next open look I get, I'm going to knock it down. That was my mindset the whole game."
McDaniels rejected Dez Wells' shot on the next possession, and Clemson hit its free throws from there to seal the victory.
Hall was on his way to perhaps a triple-double at halftime: six points, five rebounds and four assists at the break. However, he did not score in the second half.
So when there was free basketball to be played, the Tigers' point guard awoke. Hall scored six points in the first extra period, knocked down a go-ahead jumper with 2:04 left in the second overtime, and hit both free-throw attempts with 17 seconds remaining to extend a 2-point lead to four.
Hall, who like Harrison started 2 for 9 from the floor, finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Harrison had 10 points, while center Landry Nnoko contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.
"We started off not making any shots - sometimes, that happens," Hall said. "We just stuck with it and kept taking what the defense was giving us. Eventually, the shots started going in."
Adonis Filer missed a wild attempt at the end of regulation, and McDaniels couldn't convert a decent look in the lane to conclude the first overtime period.
"Terrific win for our guys. I thought we showed a ton of resiliency," Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. "Guys came back a little dejected after the first overtime, and I just tried to stay positive with those guys."
This was Clemson's second overtime game of the year; on Feb. 11, it lost 68-64 at Notre Dame, also requiring two OTs to complete.
Clemson made no substitutions in the 10 minutes of overtime; McDaniels, Harrison, Hall, Nnoko and Jaron Blossomgame were the gameday starters and finishers.
"We rode that crew really hard there down the stretch. They played all the minutes and they showed a lot of guts and courage to hang in there and find a way to win that game," Brownell said. "They could have given in at any time in the last 8-10 minutes of regulation on through."
Allen led the Terps with 20 points, Wells scored 16 and Evan Smotrycz, whose 3-pointer tied the game with nine seconds left in the first OT period, had 19 points.
Clemson, who clinched one of the ACC tournament's top nine seeds (and thus a first-day bye), has a quick turnaround before hosting Miami (15-14, 6-10) on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The regular season ends Saturday against Pittsburgh.
"We still want to make the postseason and have a good chance of playing in the NCAA tournament," Hall said. "For now, we're just taking it one game at a time and focusing on what's in front of us."
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