CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- James Mays wasn't Clemson's first choice to
take the game-winning shot. Just the best one.
Mays had 16 points, including the game-winning layup with 2.2
seconds to go, as the Tigers (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today; No. 23 AP) became the Division I's
only unbeaten team with a 75-74 victory over Georgia Tech on
The best start in 20 years for Clemson (16-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast
Conference) was in serious trouble when Javaris Crittenton scored
with 6.5 seconds left to put the Yellow Jackets up 74-73.
That's when Mays caught the inbounds pass at midcourt and
dribbled down the left side of the lane before putting up his soft
banker off the glass.
At practice on Friday, the Tigers practiced such a last-second
play. Mays has two choices to look for open teammates, Clemson
coach Oliver Purnell said. But on Saturday, Mays saw an opening and
went for it.
"I wasn't the first option," Mays said. "But I was the option
Top-ranked UCLA lost 68-66 to No. 16 Oregon earlier Saturday to
leave Clemson as the lone unbeaten.
Mays ran his own personal streak at Clemson to 27-0 the last two
years. The Tigers opened 11-0 a year ago when Mays, then the
Tigers' top rebounder, was declared academically ineligible and did
not play again.
"It feels pretty good," Mays said. "This is something
Mouhammad Faye put up a desperation heave that missed for
Georgia Tech (11-4, 0-2), which has lost its last 14 games on its
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt told his players in the timeout
just before the final play that he did not want to give a layup
chance to Mays.
"We didn't do what we were supposed to do," Hewitt said. "I
haven't seen the tape, but I'm sure there was somebody there to
Hammonds said Mays made a nice move to sidestep a Tech defender
and get to the basket.
"He sidestepped them and laid it up," Hammonds said. "It was
a great move."
Clemson students and fans rushed the court, swarming Mays and
his teammates in celebration. They cheered even louder when the
UCLA score was announced. It was hard to imagine they had any
energy left to shout after the wild final minute they witnessed.
The lead changed hands four times with the nearly full crowd
gasping at every turn.
Purnell wants his players to work as hard as they have thus far.
But he also wants them to enjoy their time in the spotlight.
"I told them to embrace it," he said. "It doesn't come that
And now the rest of the country will have to pay attention, Mays
said. He and his teammates have heard their pre-ACC schedule picked
apart by critics who are waiting for the Tigers to fall flat in
"We're in conference play now so there's not much more they can
say," Mays said.
Crittenton scored a career-high 22 points for Georgia Tech,
which played without guard Lewis Clinch, who had been averaging 13
points a game. The sophomore guard was suspended for the season on
Friday for a violation of "Institute policy," according to the
Georgia Tech led 48-39 with 14:17 left on a basket by Anthony
Morrow. He added a jumper and then a 3-pointer with 8:22 left that
kept the Yellow Jackets ahead 63-58.
That's when Clemson put together an 11-2 run to move in front.
Mays tied the game with two foul shots and added a slam off a
missed shot during the streak.
The Tigers, though, could not hold off Georgia Tech.
Jemeris Smith hit two foul shots to put the Yellow Jackets up
72-71 with 33 seconds left. After Hammonds' driving shot regained
the lead for the Clemson, Crittenton looked like he had saved the
day for Georgia Tech with his floating basket.
The Tigers called a timeout to set up the final shot with Mays
moving smoothly to the basket for the game-winner.
It's the second straight game Clemson needed a late shot to win.
Hammonds' layup with 3 seconds left at Florida State gave the
Tigers a 68-66 victory this past Wednesday night in their ACC