CLEMSON, S.C. — Trevor Booker closed out his home career at Clemson with 21 points to lead the surging Tigers to a 91-80 victory over Georgia Tech on Tuesday night.
Demontez Stitt added 20 points as Clemson (21-8, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) won for the fifth time in six games and all but cemented a spot in the NCAA tournament.
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 three-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.
Andre Young got it started right before the half, 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.
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 ended 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, coach Oliver Purnell pulled Booker out to a standing ovation from the Littlejohn Coliseum crowd.
Booker made his school-record 131st start, surpassing the mark of ex-teammate Cliff Hammonds.
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, 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.
The Tigers hoped to get 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."
Just like last game, the first half was a back-and-forth affair with neither team able to build much of a cushion.
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.