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Ex-DWS star Young scores 13 as Clemson cans Tech

Photo by Mark Crammer

Photo by Mark Crammer

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson's players earned a morning off from coach Oliver Purnell's mandatory breakfast gathering after beating Georgia Tech on Tuesday night.

The Tigers may have also gained something bigger with the 91-80 win -- a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

"If we don't get in, I'm seceding from the NCAA," Purnell said with a chuckle.

Trevor Booker scored 21 points in his last home game, Demontez Stitt added 20 and former Deerfield star Andre Young scored 13 points, going a perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line as surging Clemson (21-8, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) won for the fifth time in six games.

"It was great," said Booker, who made his school record 131st start for the Tigers. "We couldn't ask for a better finish."

The Tigers used a 25-7 run that spanned the halves to take control of what had been a 41-41 game. The Yellow Jackets (19-10, 7-8) could not respond and now are in desperation mode, needing to beat Virginia Tech on Saturday simply to finish .500 in the league.

Glen Rice Jr. had 17 points and Derrick Favors 16 for Georgia Tech.

Clemson, ninth in ACC 3-point percentage coming in, found its outside stroke against the Yellow Jackets. The Tigers hit 12 from behind the arc, including five during the game-changing run.

Young, who hit a half-court bomb to close the first half in Clemson's win at Florida State this past Sunday night, did it again -- although from much closer in -- against Georgia Tech, connecting on a 25-footer as time ran out to send Clemson into the locker room ahead 44-41.

Young then hit the first shot of the second half from long distance and Stitt followed with another 3.

By the time inside specialist Booker nailed a 3-pointer of his own, the Tigers were ahead 61-46.

Stitt connected on his second 3 and Booker capped the run with a bucket for a 66-48 lead with 14:43 remaining.

"I'm really pleased with our team right now," Purnell said.

It was easy to see the Yellow Jackets' frustration. Gani Lawal, who played just 8 minutes in the first half with two early fouls, was called for an intentional foul during the Tigers' second-half run and quickly headed back to the bench.

Lawal finished with 11 points.

Georgia Tech could not get closer than 11 the rest of the way as Clemson finished with its highest point total in an ACC game this season.

With 10 seconds left, Purnell pulled Booker out to a standing ovation from the Littlejohn Coliseum crowd.

Booker figures to have a few more starts in him. Clemson, known for fading down the stretch, looks like it's rolling right into March. The Tigers close the regular season at Wake Forest on Sunday before heading to the ACC tournament.

When these teams met Jan. 19, both were ranked inside the Top 20 and each figured to be a sure-fire lock for NCAA bids. Things haven't gone as smoothly for the two schools since the Yellow Jackets' 66-64 win six weeks ago.

Georgia Tech has gone 5-6 since, including losses in three of its past five games. Clemson has also struggled down the stretch, the loss in Atlanta beginning a run of four defeats in five games.

"We will have to wait and see what happens Saturday," Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt said of his team's NCAA chances. "I don't really have a good feel about where everyone else is in the country so it's hard to say how we relate."

The Tigers got a boost from a packed Littlejohn Coliseum celebrating seniors Booker and David Potter.

There were colossal cardboard head cutouts of both smiling starters circulating through the arena and even a gorilla in a shaggy, orange wig with the sign, "We go ape for Trevor Booker."

"The thing is, it's a dream come true," Booker said of the hype.

Potter began lobbying for a morning of sleep as time ticked down, convincing Purnell to call off the 7:30 a.m. gathering.

"I don't know the last time he ever did that," Potter said.

There was a scary moment for Favors near the end. He hit his right hand against the backboard as he went to block a drive by Young. Favors came down in pain holding the hand.

However, he had his fingers taped up during the break and started the second half.