ATLANTA (AP)—Coach Oliver Purnell knows Clemson might have hurt its chance to earn a first-round bye in the ACC tournament next week.
Zack Peacock hit four straight free throws in the final 16 seconds to help Georgia Tech beat 24th-ranked Clemson 80-75 on Thursday night.
“We’ve got one game left, I hope we fight,” he said. “Obviously, we can win that game and we’re in good shape going into the tournament. That’s what we have to focus on.”
The Tigers (21-8, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) host Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale Sunday. Both teams are tied for third overall in the league.
“We’ve been in big games all year long,” he said. “We’ve done a good job of minimizing our struggles in a tough league.”
Clemson was coming off the largest second-half deficit in school history in a 73-70 victory at Maryland five days ago. But Clemson never led after Moe Miller’s 3-pointer with 11:52 left in the game.
Terrence Oglesby, who hit the winning 3-pointer against the Terrapins, missed a 26-footer with 22.5 seconds that would’ve tied the game at 76.
After Cliff Hammonds made one of two free throws, Clemson coach Oliver Purnell was furious when Peacock wasn’t called for a foul on K.C. Rivers’ missed layup.
“We had a chance to catch up and send it into overtime,” Purnell said. “We had some good looks at the basket. T.O. had a great look; I thought we got the ball exactly where we wanted to. I thought we got the ball exactly where we wanted to with K.C. on the out-of-bounds play, and we didn’t convert.”
Neither team scored a field goal after Clemson guard Demontez Stitt’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 74-72 with 2:16 remaining.
Anthony Morrow led Georgia Tech (13-16, 6-9 ACC) with 16 points, going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Peacock, one game after scoring a career-high 23 points in a loss to Virginia on Monday, finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
Clemson is attempting to earn an NCAA tournament bid for the first time since 1998. Purnell, now in his fourth season, led the Tigers to the NIT the last three years. But any ACC team that has won nine league games and 20 overall has made the NCAA field. Clemson was seeking to tie a school record in victories last matched in 1989-90.
James Mays’ putback gave the Tigers a four-point lead with 14:29 remaining, but Clemson was outscored 31-22 down the stretch.
Oglesby scored 15 points to lead Clemson, which had won four of five to return to the Top 25 for the first time since Jan. 14. Mays finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Gani Lawal and Jeremis Smith each had 13 points for Georgia Tech.
Clemson led by as much as 13 points when Oglesby hit a 3 midway through the first half. But the Tigers appeared rattled after Hammonds fell down and hit his mouth in the Georgia Tech lane with 2:41 remaining. Hammonds, whose reverse layup had cut the lead to 70-69 with 4:03 remaining, was helped off the court before returning to the bench.
“He cracked a tooth that he had cracked before,” Purnell said. “They went and checked it, and he was fine.”
The senior guard returned five possessions later, but he missed three of six free throws in the final 1:08.
The Tigers, who could have clinched a first-round bye in the ACC tournament, have been seeded higher than sixth two times since 1990. Since Purnell’s first year, Clemson has been seeded either eighth or ninth and has lost three straight games.
“They got a 13-point lead, then we locked up,” Hammonds said. “We thought we could outscore them.”
Since 1983, the Yellow Jackets have won 20 of 26 against Clemson at home.
Georgia Tech, which has won two of three overall since losing five straight, ends the regular season on Saturday at Boston College.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs in the last four years,” Morrow said, “and tonight’s just made everything sweet.”