Tigers look towards Duke

Clemson battles Duke for the second time in 20 days on Saturday, and it's imperative for the Tigers to get off to a much better start than they did in a 21-point loss to the Blue Devils in their ACC opener on Jan. 3 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Clemson managed a meager 12 points on 5-of-30 shooting in the first half in Durham, N.C. -- the worst first-half point total and shooting percentage in coach Oliver Purnell's seven seasons at Clemson.

"That first half pretty much did us in," the Tigers' Demontez Stitt said after the game. "We can't let that happen again. We'll remember this. They've got to come back to us."

The Blue Devils "come back" Saturday, returning to play at Littlejohn Coliseum for the first time since being crushed by Clemson 74-47 last February. It was the fewest points scored by Duke under coach Mike Krzyzewski since 1982, and it was Duke's largest margin of defeat since a 30-point loss to UNLV in the 1990 national championship game.

This time, rest assured the 17th-ranked Tigers (15-4, 3-2) will be pleased with any margin of victory as they seek to keep pace with the early front-runners in the ACC.

"The way things look like they're setting up, a team with four or five losses might win the regular season," Purnell said. "It looks like it's setting up to be very balanced and a dogfight every night. Home courts are valuable, and if you get one on the road, it's three times as valuable."

The Tigers also must rediscover their touch at the free-throw line. After shooting an above-average 74.4 percent in their first four ACC games, the Tigers were just 10-for-20 in Tuesday's loss at Georgia Tech.

GEORGIA TECH 66, CLEMSON 64: Clemson had a difficult time contending with Georgia Tech's inside tandem of Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors, but it was Zach Peacock's two free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining that provided the difference in Tech's win Tuesday night at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Lawal and Favors each posted double-doubles and combined for 33 points, 24 rebounds and five blocked shots for the 19th-ranked Yellow Jackets (14-4, 3-2 ACC). Clemson got a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds from Trevor Booker.

Clemson controlled its own fate after taking possession with 25 seconds left and the game tied at 64. But Demontez Stitt lost the ball on a drive to the basket with nine seconds remaining, and Booker was called for a foul on Peacock seconds later.

"It wasn't a foul; that's all I've got to say," Booker said.

Clemson attempted to lob an inbounds pass to a streaking Stitt in the final three seconds, but the ball was tipped by Tech, and the Tigers were unable to get a shot off in the ensuing scramble.

"We wanted to get Demontez on the fly over the top, and I thought we had a chance to get it in there, but the pass was just a little bit off," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "There was a loose-ball scramble, and if we had come up with it, we had a guy open at the basket."

Instead, Clemson (15-4, 3-2) lost its second two-point decision of the season and fell for only the second time in its past 11 games.

NOTES

Clemson doesn't seem to have much of a problem building leads. It's hanging onto them that seems to be the problem.

After taking command against North Carolina State by as much as 21 points in the first half, the Tigers were hanging on at the end before emerging with a 73-70 victory over the Wolfpack.

"We were tough in the first half, and we were tough at the end," coach Oliver Purnell said after his Tigers held the 'Pack to under 32 percent shooting in the first half and got a key block from Jerai Grant in the closing seconds.

"That's two pretty good times to be tough, but I thought N.C. State battled their tails off and played a little harder than us in the second half.

"That happens sometimes when you're on the road."

Actually, it happened to the Tigers at home back in December, when the Tigers blew a 23-point lead in a loss to Illinois.

It almost happened earlier in the week when they lost 10 points off a 23-point first-half advantage over North Carolina before turning the heat back on to win by 19.

But a key defensive play against the Wolfpack prevented another epic collapse.

With the Tigers hold a one-point lead, Jerai Grant came up blocked a shot with 34 seconds left, and Tanner Smith's free throws provided the final cushion.

--Senior F Trevor Booker scored 20 points against N.C. State to move over the 1,500 mark for his career at 1,516. He also had six rebounds to give him 942 over his four years.

--The win over the unranked Wolfpack snapped a frustrating streak for the Tigers, who were coming off an 83-64 win over 12th-ranked North Carolina. They had lost their next game 14 consecutive times after posting a win over a ranked team, a stretch going back to the 1997-98 season.

ON THE SPOT: After he scored in double figures in four of the Tigers' first six games, senior F David Potter has become a non-factor. He made 15 of his first 22 3-point shots to start the season, but he hasn't been able to find the range since, making only five of his last 32 attempts (15.6 percent) beyond the arc and failing to score in double figures in 13 consecutive games.

ROSTER REPORT: --G Demontez Stitt, who was listed as questionable for Tuesday night's game at Georgia Tech after suffering a mid-foot sprain at N.C. State on Saturday, was a surprise starter. In fact, the junior logged more minutes -- 36 -- than anyone and finished with 10 points, his 11th double-figure scoring game in 14 contests.

--Stitt wasn't the only one ailing Tuesday night. His backup, sophomore G Andre Young, played despite suffering from a stomach virus. Young, a native of Albany, Ga., scored eight points.

--Senior F Trevor Booker finished one rebound shy of his 29th career double-double Tuesday. Booker, who had 19 points and nine rebounds in the loss to Georgia Tech, is the ACC's active career leader in double-doubles.

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