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No. 19 Tech drops No. 17 Clemson in ACC showdown

Photo by John Bazemore

Photo by John Bazemore

ATLANTA -- For those Georgia Tech basketball fans who believe in good omens, Tuesday night's game against No. 17 Clemson had plenty of them for the 19th-ranked Yellow Jackets.

For the second time in as many games, Zachery Peacock had the game in his hands.

And for the second straight time, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound senior delivered -- this time, with a pair of free throws with three seconds remaining to lift Tech to a 66-64 victory before a lively crowd of 8,738 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

While Albany native and former Deerfield star Andre Young contributed what he could -- eight points and two steals --- to Clemson's effort, Tech freshman Derrick Favors had perhaps the best game of his young career with 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots as the Jackets (14-4) followed up with a win just three days after a victory against then-No. 12 North Carolina on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C. Peacock was also Mr. Clutch in that win, sinking the go-ahead bucket with less than 30 seconds lto lift the Yellow Jackets.

Tuesday's win, however, marked the first time since the Final Four season of 2003-04 in which the Jackets have defeated ranked teams in back-to-back games.

And at 3-2 in the ACC, Tech is now above .500 in league play for the first time since Jan. 8, 2006.

"It's a big win," said Tech star Gani Lawal, who posted his eighth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds, despite being limited to just 20 minutes because of foul trouble. "I haven't had time to do the research on that, but I'm happy we got our third (ACC) win, and now we can go after our fourth."

Both teams got off to a sloppy start, committing a combined six turnovers and missing five free throws each in six attempts by the second media timeout with 11:23 left in the first half.

However, when the teams were able to hold on to the ball, each of the teams' big men were able to have an early impact.

Tanner Smith had a hand in Clemson's first three baskets with a 3-pointer and two assists as the Tigers built a 9-2 lead.

"We had the pace we wanted (at the start)," said Smith, who finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists. "We kind of enforced our style, but then we let up a little."

Lawal helped the Jackets fight back, and when he completed his second dunk in as many possessions with 10:10 left in the half, Tech had vaulted into a 13-11 lead.

A 17-8 run by Tech during a 4:13 stretch, capped by Favors converting two alley-oops from Glen Rice Jr. -- the latter a three-point play -- helped the Jackets build their biggest lead of the game at 31-21 with 3:28 left in the opening frame.

But Clemson rallied in the final 3:09 to pull back to within 35-29 by intermission.

But after Tech was able to build its lead back up to as much as nine at 43-34, in the second half, the Tigers quickly rallied with a 14-3 run, capped by a Smith 3-pointer, followed by a steal of the inbound pass and layup by Devin Booker as Clemson take its first lead in almost 18 minutes at 48-47 with 11:58 to play.

The game then became a see-saw affair, with three lead changes and five ties, and neither team leading by more than four points.

Of course, both had a chance to hold for the last shot in the final 35 seconds --- Tech first, Clemson second --- yet both committed turnovers, which gave Tech the ball back with 9 seconds left.

The Jackets then inbounded and found Peacock, their third option on the play. Peacock was then fouled by Trevor Booker -- who led all scorers with 19 points --- with 3 seconds left.

Peacock calmly stepped to the line and rattled home both free throws to put the Jackets up for good, 66-64.

"I don't know how it is, but (the ball) is managing to wind up in my hands," Peacock said.

Clemson had one more chance after its time out, but Lawal helped disrupt the Tigers' inbound near halfcourt.

And Rice -- who had perhaps the best game of his freshman season with nine points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks -- fell on the loose ball as the buzzer sounded to give Tech the win.