for this game

Clemson shakes off sluggish start

Feb 22, 2009 - 10:44 PM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- After sleep-walking through the first 10 minutes of Sunday's game at Georgia Tech, Clemson woke up in time to keep alive its hopes of gaining at least a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title.

Trevor Booker recorded 21 points and 13 rebounds as the 13th-ranked Tigers pulled away in the second half for a 81-73 victory over the Yellow Jackets.

After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, Clemson (22-4, 8-4) opened an 81-68 lead on Terrence Oglesby's two free throws with 44 seconds remaining.

"This league, every night is just a fight," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "I was very pleased with the way that our guys hung in there. I didn't feel like we came out real sharp at the beginning."

The Tigers climbed into a tie for second in the ACC with Florida while remaining one game behind North Carolina (10-3).

"It's kind of been a characteristic of our team, to get off to a little bit a slow start then warm into it and win," Purnell added. "I guess the positive thing is that our guys don't get rattled."

Early in Sunday's contest, however, it appeared Clemson was going to get ambushed on the road by a team with just one conference win.

The Tigers' defense was non-existent for the first 10 1/2 minutes as Georgia Tech (1-12, 10-16) built a 25-10 lead on Gani Lawal's two free throws with 9:28 left in the half.

Clemson finally snapped out of its funk, ending the half with a 23-8 spurt to tie the contest, 33-33, at the intermission.

"I think when it got to 11 or 12, we had three or four shots around the basket that we rushed a little bit instead of gathering ourselves," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "They took advantage of that. I think they came down and scored on eight or nine straight possessions."

Following the break, Clemson quickly took control, outscoring the Yellow Jackets 11-2 in the first three minutes of the second half.

K.C. Rivers scored 19 points and Andre Young added 12 off the bench for the Tigers.

"Our pressure turned them over a little bit, and I thought it had an effect on the game," Purnell said. We did some different things in the second half - full court and half court. I'm just really pleased to get out of here with another tough road ACC win."

Georgia Tech stayed close behind the long-range shooting of Lewis Clinch, who was 6-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with 27 points.

However, Clemson was 12-of-23 from beyond the arc and 15-of-21 from the line, compared to 13-of-21 for Georgia Tech.

"One of our goals was to hold them to six threes," Hewitt said. "They made 12, and they out-shot us on the free-throw line by two. That was difference in the game."