Mays keeps Clemson lone unbeaten in Division IJan 7, 2007 - 1:48 AM CLEMSON, South Carolina (Ticker) -- And then there was one - a most surprising one in Clemson.
James Mayes hit a driving layup with 2.2 seconds to go to lift the unbeaten 18th-ranked Tigers to a thrilling 75-74 victory over Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The dramatic finish allowed Clemson (16-0, 2-0 ACC) to remain the only undefeated team in Division I following top-ranked UCLA's loss at Oregon earlier Saturday.
"This is my first-ever undefeated team in my career and it means a lot," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "I told the team that this doesn't happen often and it's special, so embrace it."
The winning basket capped a huge second half for Mays. The junior center scored 14 of his 16 points after intermission as the Tigers moved within one victory of matching the best start in school history set in 1986-87.
"Mays has really emerged as a big-time player and has raised his level and helped to raise our level as a team," Purnell said.
On the game-winning play, the 6-9 Mays took a pass in the backcourt and drove to the hoop, banking in a lefthanded layup to give Clemson its third straight win over Georgia Tech.
"Mays just made a great play moving to his left," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "That is outstanding for a big man."
K.C. Rivers scored 20 points and Cliff Hammonds added 17 as Clemson fought back from a nine-point second-half deficit and overcame 58 percent shooting (29-of-50) by Georgia Tech.
Freshman Javaris Crittenton led the Yellow Jackets (11-4, 0-2) with 22 points, including a baseline floater with 6.5 seconds left for a 74-73 lead.
"Javaris Crittenton played terrific," Hewitt said. "He is one of the most competitive guys that I have ever been around.
In the first half, the Yellow Jackets went without a basket for nearly 10 minutes, allowing the Tigers to build a 28-20 lead. Crittenton and classmate Thaddeus Young sparked a 10-0 run that helped Georgia Tech grab a 34-29 halftime lead.
"I don't feel like we played very well the first half of the game," Purnell said. "They were very physical and tried to keep us off the offensive glass and we got into a little bit of foul trouble in the first half."
The Yellow Jackets extended the lead to nine points early in the second half, but Mays scored six points in a 12-3 run that helped the Tigers tied it at 51-51. Neither team led by more than four points thereafter.
"I wanted our team to re-establish how Georgia Tech has played over the years. But that leadership has to start with our juniors and seniors," Hewitt said. "They have to be the ones to set the tone for our team. If our young guys are the leaders, we are going to be playing in the NIT."
- NCAA BB
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
GEORGIA TECH 34 40 74
CLEMSON (18) 29 46 75 FINAL
Jan 6 6:18 PM
- NCAA BB
GEORGIA TECH 34
CLEMSON (18) 29 HALFTIME
Jan 6 4:57 PM
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