By Brandon M. Patterson
ATLANTA – Tonight’s contest with No. 18 Clemson, according to Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner, epitomized what life is like in the Atlantic Coast Conference in men’s basketball. After starting 3-1 in conference play, ACC life in Atlanta is now hitting a number of rough patches.
Down by eight points with less than three minutes remaining, the Yellow Jackets fought hard to rally from behind to tie the game on the back of Josh Okogie, but lost 72-70 to the Tigers when Clemson’s Marcquise Reed hit a game-winning layup with 25 seconds remaining. Georgia Tech has now lost four consecutive games, all in conference play, with three of the losses coming at home to nationally-ranked opponents.
“You have to give Clemson credit,” Georgia Tech Head Coach Josh Pastner said. “Great win for them. I thought it was a well-played game by both teams. That’s life in the ACC…Bottom line is it was a well-played game by both teams and obviously Clemson came out on top.”
The Yellow Jackets jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, forcing the Tigers into an early timeout. Right out of the timeout, Clemson’s Gabe DeVoe would hit a three-pointer to end the Yellow Jackets’ run. The three-pointer would be a weapon all night for Clemson, hitting 10 long-range shots overall.
Okogie and the Yellow Jackets would get the game back under control, playing a zone defense to lock down the paint and force the Tigers to work for their three-point attempts. Georgia Tech extended their lead to 12 points at 29-17, their largest lead of the game.
But the three-pointers kept falling for Clemson as they closed the deficit to two at 38-36 by halftime. DeVoe, picking up the slack for his injured roommate, senior forward Donte Grantham, whose career at Clemson ended after he tore his ACL last week, made four of his five three-pointers in the first half on his way to a career-high 25 points.
The second half would see the game turn on its head, as Clemson came out of the locker room scoring the first seven points to take a 43-38 lead. Junior forward Elijah Thomas tied the game at 38 with a layup, and Clemson would take its first lead of the game off of Thomas’ three-point play.
Georgia Tech found the answer to Clemson’s surge in the form of Okogie, who scored 17 of his 26 points after halftime and scored 14 of the Yellow Jackets’ last 16 points of the game.
But, after Okogie made two free throws to tie the game at 70 with 41 seconds to go, Clemson’s Reed drove down the left side of the lane and hit a clutch layup to give the Tigers a 72-70 lead. Okogie then missed a layup that would have tied the game and Clemson walked away with the win.
Georgia Tech now falls to 3-5 in ACC play and 10-11 overall, and will remain at home for its next game when they take on Syracuse on Wed. Jan. 31 at 8 P.M.