ShareThis Page

Pitt focuses on stopping Clemson standout McDaniels in ACC game

Kevin Gorman
| Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, 10:18 p.m.
Clemson's K.J. McDaniels grabs a rebound during the second half against Wake Forest on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.
Clemson's K.J. McDaniels grabs a rebound during the second half against Wake Forest on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

Jamie Dixon didn't realize how good Clemson's K.J. McDaniels is until the Pitt coach started scouting the Tigers on Saturday night.

It took only minutes to notice the athleticism of McDaniels, a 6-foot-6 junior swingman who has made four appearances on ESPN's Top Plays with highlight-reel dunks and blocked shots.

That's nothing new for opposing coaches, even though McDaniels leads the Tigers in scoring (16.7), rebounding (7.2) and ranks first in the ACC with 48 blocked shots, an average of 2.8 per game.

McDaniels has been a pivotal player for Clemson (13-4, 4-1 ACC), which plays No. 20 Pitt (16-2, 4-1) at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Petersen Events Center.

“He's a special player,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “He's one of the better players in the country most people don't know a lot about because he's really kind of come into his own this year.”

After averaging 10.9 points and five rebounds last season, McDaniels is coming off his fourth double-double of the season: a 15-point, 12-rebound, four-block effort against Wake Forest. McDaniels has three 20-point, 10-rebound games this season, but his defense sets him apart: He has blocked at least one shot in nine consecutive games.

“He's going after 'em,” Dixon said. “It does speak to his aggressiveness, as well as his athleticism. He's doing a lot of good things and is a really good player who's getting better over his career.”

The improved play of McDaniels is a major reason the Tigers are off to their best start in ACC play since 1996-97 and are one win shy of matching their conference victory total from last season.

“I think he has a huge ceiling,” Brownell said. “He's athletic as anybody in the league. He can run and jump and block shots around the rim. ... It's extremely unique that your small forward is a guy who's leading the league in blocked shots, or right around it every year.

“He's just a guy who's been a joy to coach because of how hard he's worked. To see him develop, it's a nice story.”

Pitt marks the first of a grueling three-week schedule for Clemson, which plays five of its next six games on the road. The Tigers play at North Carolina on Sunday, at Florida State Feb. 1, at home against Georgia Tech on Feb. 4, at Syracuse on Feb. 9 and at Notre Dame on Feb. 11.

Pitt is 11-0 at home this season and riding a 13-game winning streak at the Pete, which Brownell called “one of the best home courts in all of college basketball.”

“It's the grind of the season,” Brownell said. “It's right in the middle. The novelty of ACC play kind of wears off a little bit, and you get back to the grind of what you do every day. There's a lot to it. We're going to play some great teams. We have some challenging venues to play in, but I'm proud of where our guys have started.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.