The Tigers (12-8, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) held an 11-point lead early in the second half, but the Yellow Jackets (11-8, 1-6) gradually chipped away. When Mfon Udofia made a free throw with 17.2 seconds left, Clemson’s lead had shrunk to 61-60.
That’s when McDaniels grabbed the inbounds pass, got fouled by Udofia and confidently made both ends of the 1-and-1 attempts. The Yellow Jackets had a chance to tie, but Brandon Reed’s 3-point attempt from left of the basket was off the mark and Clemson won for the fourth time in its last six games this season.
Daniel Miller had a career-high 16 points and Kammeon Holsey 14 to lead Georgia Tech.
McDaniels’ play rescued the Tigers in a game where their two senior post players, Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, had off nights. Booker, the team’s leading scorer, was 3-of-10 shooting for eight points while Jennings followed up his career-high 28 points against Virginia Tech on Sunday by going 4-of-12. He managed nine points and nine rebounds before fouling out.
The Tigers were finishing up a stretch of four games in nine days and improved to 8-2 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Both Clemson and Georgia Tech carried some momentum into the contest.
The Tigers broke a two-game losing streak last Sunday as they rallied in the second half to defeat Virginia Tech 77-70. The Yellow Jackets finally broke through after starting ACC play with five straight losses, defeating Wake Forest 82-62 and shooting over 50 percent after not breaking 40 percent in their previous five games.
Georgia Tech, last in ACC shooting percentage coming in, carried that touch into this one and made eight of its first 10 shots to open a 20-10 lead after Holsey’s three-point play less than eight minutes into the opening half.
Then Clemson tightened its defense and got back in it, closing the half on a 26-10 run. McDaniels got the run started with a jumper. Freshman Jordan Roper hit two outside shots to cut the lead to 26-24. Three minutes later, McDaniels had a 3-pointer and an inside shot to put the Tigers up for the first time, 31-30.
Damarcus Harrison had a 3-pointer and McDaniels closed the run with a layup and Clemson went to the half ahead 36-30.
Georgia Tech made only five of its final 15 shots and had no field goals over the final five minutes.
The Yellow Jackets started 3-of-3 on long-range baskets, then struggled the rest of the way as they made only one of their last 12, including Reed’s miss just before the buzzer sounded.