CLEMSON 73 BELMONT 68
CLEMSON — Damarcus Harrison scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and Clemson used a late 12-2 run to beat Belmont 73-68 Tuesday night and reach the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
It was the 12th straight NIT home game won by the Tigers (23-12), who advanced to New York for the second time in as many appearances in the tournament. Clemson lost in the title game to West Virginia in 2007.
Clemson will play either SMU or California.
The Tigers trailed 66-61 with 3:52 left after the second of Craig Brad Shaw's consecutive 3-pointers. Rod Hall began the rally with a three-point play Harrison followed with five straight points to put Clemson ahead 69-68. After a Belmont turnover, Hall hit a driving layup for a 71-68 lead and the Bruins could not respond.
Bradshaw had 21 points to lead Belmont (26-10), which missed its final four shots.
Clemson's K.J. McDaniels added 16 points.
J.J. Mann had 20 points for the Bruins, whose 12 3-pointers were the most Clemson had allowed this season.
Clemson had its bumps in the NIT road to reach this point. The Tigers needed a late rally to get past Atlantic Sun Conference champ Georgia State 78-66 in the first round ament here last week and got a last-second driving layup from Rod Hall to escape Illinois with 50-49 victory Sunday.
Belmont had been to three straight NCAA tournaments before this season and hoped to reach its first NIT semifinals. Coach Rick Byrd has built a power program with the Bruins, who've handled such loud environments before – Belmont won this season at North Carolina something Clemson has never done.
And Belmont, the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champs who lost in its league tournament, didn't let Clemson's defensive reputation change up its game plan. The Bruins came into this one with 311 3-pointers, the country's fifth best total, and kept shooting the long-range shots despite Clemson leading the nation in 3-point defense.
The Tigers have held opponents to 27.9 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Belmont tested that in the first half and finished slightly ahead of the curve in making 5 of 16 long-range shots (.317) before the break. None was bigger than Reece Chamberlain's straight-on 3 with 3.3 seconds that cut into Clemson's nine-point lead and sent the game to the half with the Tigers up 37-31.
The Tigers were down 18-13 after Craig Bradshaw's three. Then they went 22-5 run closed by two 3-pointers by 6-foot-10 Ibrahim Djambo. The junior was fouled on his second one and swished the foul shot for a four-point play and a 35-23 Clemson lead.
The game was the second straight NIT sellout at Littlejohn Coliseum and the third this season.
McDaniels was honored pre-game for reaching the 1,000-point career mark in Clemson's win over Illinois. The crowd began chanting “One More Year,” as McDaniels clapped along. The high-flying 6-6 junior is considered a late first-round NBA prospect.
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