ATLANTA — K.J. McDaniels scored 14 points and Milton Jennings blocked a potentially tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, preserving Clemson's 56-53 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night.
The Tigers (13-11, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) extended their domination of the Yellow Jackets (13-10, 3-8), sweeping the season series and winning their seventh in a row overall.
Georgia Tech rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half and had a couple of chances to force overtime. Chris Bolden missed badly on a drive with about 10 seconds to go, but the Yellow Jackets got another chance after Jennings made only 1 of 2 free throws. Mfon Udofia took off down the court, looking to get off a 3, and he appeared to have an open look when Daniel Miller delivered a pick to free up his teammate.
But Jennings came up from behind to strip it away, and the Tigers celebrated.
Marcus Georges-Hunt led Georgia Tech with 11 points. The Yellow Jackets nearly pulled out an improbable win after shooting just 17 percent from the field in the first half.
Clemson appeared to be firmly in control when Damarcus Harrison made an open 3 with 7:51 left, pushing the Tigers to their biggest lead of the night, 47-35.
But Georgia Tech ripped off a 12-4 run to make a game of it. Miller helped finish off the spurt when he blocked Devin Booker from behind on what appeared to be a clear drive to the basket, and the Yellow Jackets took off the other way. Bolden missed on a drive, but Robert Carter Jr. tipped it in to cut Clemson's lead to 51-47 with 3:27 left, forcing the Tigers to take a timeout.
The home team couldn't complete the comeback.
With just over a minute to go and the shot clock running down, McDaniels drove into the lane and tried to pass to a teammate under the basket. The Yellow Jackets got a hand on it, but the ball went right back to McDaniels. He flipped up a quick shot, just ahead of the 35-second buzzer, to give Clemson a 55-50 lead with 1:02 remaining.
The Yellow Jackets didn't think McDaniels should've even been in position to make the fortuitous basket. Rod Hall threw the ball out of bounds after bumping with Carter, but the officials ruled that the Georgia Tech player deflected it. He protested vehemently, but Clemson kept possession — and took advantage of it.
The teams slogged through a first half of brutal offensive basketball, filled with airballs, blocked shots (Clemson had six), clunkers from close range, and open 3-pointers that wouldn't fall.
Georgia Tech went nearly 8 minutes without making a field goal, made just 5 of 29 from the field — and still trailed only 20-15 at the break.
That's because Clemson wasn't much better. The Tigers hit only 8 of 29 (28 percent), failing to pull away even when the Yellow Jackets couldn't make a thing.
In the end, the last of nine blocks by Clemson preserved the win, adding to a 63-60 triumph over the Yellow Jackets last month.