ATLANTA - As the final seconds wound down on his team's 83-76 win at Georgia Tech, Larry Shyatt shook hands with each of his players and offered each a message.
"Let's not look backward; let's look forward," Clemson's fourth-year basketball coach said.
There was no reason for the Tigers (10-5, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) to look back entering Saturday's game at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. In their rear-view mirrors was the train wreck of Wednesday's embarrassing home loss to Yale.
Clemson preceded their coach's late-game message with a message of their own by taking a 14-point lead in the second half and withstanding a late Yellow Jackets surge that trimmed the deficit to three points.
"What else can we say about Yale?" said senior swingman Jamar McKnight, who scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. "They came in our place and beat us by three. To be off two days just thinking about that, it just made us hungry."
The Tigers controlled the game by controlling the low post. Sophomore forward Chris Hobbs dominated the paint by scoring a game- and season-high 25 points and pulling down a game-high 10 rebounds.
"That's the number one thing we do is get the ball inside," Hobbs said. "We pound the glass and we get fouled. I felt I could do whatever I wanted in the paint."
All Georgia Tech (7-8, 0-2) could do was watch. With seven-foot center Luke Schensher out with a foot injury and 6-8, 250-pound forward Michael Isenhour battling leukemia, forwards Robert Brooks (6-8, 215) and Ed Nelson (6-7, 250) were the Jackets' biggest players left.
So second-year Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt knew the matchups weren't good against Hobbs (6-7, 265) and forward Ray Henderson (6-8, 265). Brooks and Nelson combined for 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"We've got to be sure we can control the paint better," said Hewitt, whose started 0-2 in ACC play for the third straight year.
The Jackets' problems extended to the perimeter. They made just eight of 29 attempts from 3-point range (27 percent), and senior guard Tony Akins struggled at times despite scoring a team-high 20 points.
"It's frustrating because we have all the tools and we're not picking them up and using them," Akins said.
Shyatt sent big guys to guard Akins and experimented with a box-and-one with hopes of disrupting Georgia Tech. Akins admitted the ploy worked, but he was rankled that none of his teammates took charge while the focus was on him.
"I keep telling them that teams are going to run different defenses at me and that's when y'all have to step up," said Akins, whose team plays at No. 1 Duke on Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN). "I tell them time and time again, and hopefully it will sink in. They can't be afraid to shoot the ball."
Special correspondent Matt Nixon contributed to this article.
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645. or firstname.lastname@example.org
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