CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Georgia Tech’s finish, both at Clemson and to the season, was enough to move coach Josh Pastner to tears.
Pastner swore over and over he was not prone to emotional outbursts. “I didn’t even cry at my wedding, for crying out loud,” he said.
Still, he couldn’t help shedding tears in the locker room with his guys after the Yellow Jackets finished the season with a 65-62 win at Clemson on Friday night.
Georgia Tech was up 11 points at the half before trailing by nine with five minutes left. But his players closed a landmark season with the school’s 11th Atlantic Coast Conference victory — its most since going 13-3 in the league in 1995-96.
There was a lot of joy for the Yellow Jackets (17-14, 11-9 ACC), who are done due to an NCAA ban on postseason play.
Earlier this week, the school told the players it was ending its fight and complying with the ban. Instead of pouting, Georgia Tech closed with its fourth straight win and sixth in the past seven.
It would’ve been “very easy for our guys to have laid down” after the school’s decision, Pastner said.
But Michael Devoe had 20 points including the go-ahead layup with 15 seconds left in Georgia Tech’s victory.
Although, that certainly looked in jeopardy when Clyde Trapp’s two foul shots put the Tigers (15-15, 9-11) up 59-50 with 5:15 to play. But Clemson’s inconsistent shooting this season — it entered ninth in ACC field goal percentage — struck again at the worst possible moment.
The Tigers made just one of their last 11 shots, including Tevin Mack’s potential game-tying three with two seconds to go.
Georgia Tech’s 11 conference wins are the most since the 1995-96 Yellow Jackets went 13-3 to finish first in the league regular season.
Jose Alvarado had two foul shots and a basket to start Georgia Tech’s final run. James Banks III continued with a pair of free throws and Devoe scored four straight points to get his team within 62-60.
Banks tied the game with 1:37 left before Devoe got free for the go-ahead basket. Banks added a final foul shot before Mack’s miss ended it.
Alvarado had 13 points while Banks had nine points, eight rebounds and all three of the Yellow Jackets blocked shots.
Mack had 19 points for Clemson, which finished just 4 of 16 on threes in the second half.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell said it was disappointing after overcoming early problems to take control of the game.
“But Devoe just beat us at the end,” he said.
THE BIG PICTURE
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have to be pleased with the strides they’ve made with coach Josh Pastner under the cloud of the NCAA ban all season.
Clemson: It’s impossible to make sense of the Tigers season. They’ve had landmark wins at North Carolina and against the top three ACC contenders in Florida State, Duke and Louisville. But they also lost twice to Virginia Tech and the Yellow Jackets.
SAVED BY PLAYERS
Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner blamed himself after his team went from 11-points ahead at halftime to nine-points down with five minutes to go. He also thanked his players for bailing him out. “The players saved me,” he said.
As disappointed as the Tigers feel tonight, Brownell believes they’ll be excited next week to play at the ACC Tournament. Of course, excitement isn’t all there is. “We have to play great,” he said. “We’ve got to play at a higher level longer to win games in his league.”
Georgia Tech’s season is over.
Clemson will play at the ACC Tournament next week.
More AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25