The Clemson Tigers head to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the NIT semifinals after their defeat of Belmont University in Littlejohn Coliseum last night. Clemson pulled out a 73-68 victory after trailing Belmont for most of the second half to add another win to their season. Their 23 wins is the most since the 2008-2009 season, when they also won 23. The 16th win in Littlejohn this season matched the single season record for home wins.
Damarcus Harrison and K.J. McDaniels each scored 16 points, Jordan Roper scored 12 points, and Landry Nnoko scored 5 points. Nnoko also grabbed nine rebounds and had four blocks. This marks the 32nd time this season that McDaniels has scored in the double digits. Harrison has reached double digits for eight of the past 11 games, and has scored 16 or more in all three NIT games. Ibrahim Djambo scored seven points.
Going into halftime, Clemson led 37-31. Throughout the game, there were 12 lead changes, most of which occurred during the end of the second half. With four minutes left, Belmont led by five. After that, Clemson scored on four straight possessions to retake the lead. Damarcus Harrison scored 12 of Clemson’s 15 final points and was a major contribution to their win over the Belmont Bruins. Harrison was almost unstoppable in the final minutes.
“I won’t be satisfied until we are in the championship game, and then I want to win the championship,” said Harrison. McDaniels also voiced his agreement with Harrison. The Tigers are headed to New York with a goal and a lot of determination. The last time Clemson advanced to the NIT finals was the 2006-2007 season under head coach Oliver Purnell, where they lost to West Virginia.
Clemson basketball also holds the second longest home win streak in the NIT with 12 games in a row. Michigan holds the longest streak with 16 in a row at home.
“I have a lot of respect for Belmont, their players and coach,” said Clemson head coach Brad Brownell. “They competed as hard as anybody we played this year.”
Brownell is now 3-0 against Belmont. Two of the wins were as the head coach of Wright State and the third, last night.
Littlejohn was completely full for the second game in a row, proof that Clemson fans attend games to help the team win, not just to watch them play. “The fans were great. This was big for a lot of reasons. Certainly the fans being there the last two games to send our guys off with a good taste in their mouths,” said Brownell.
Clemson will face the winner of the game between California and SMU on Tuesday, April 1 in Madison Square Garden.