CLEMSON, S.C. - Only one Division I college basketball team is undefeated today.
The Clemson Tigers.
James Mays made a layup with two seconds left to lift the No. 23 Tigers to a 75-74 victory Saturday over Georgia Tech and set off a rare court-storming celebration at Littlejohn Coliseum.
"This is a special win, this is a special season, and this is a special team,'' Mays said.
Clemson entered Saturday as one of two unbeaten teams nationally. The other, No. 1 UCLA, lost to Oregon earlier Saturday afternoon. Yet the Tigers felt no pressure from their undefeated standing, coach Oliver Purnell said.
"I told them to embrace it. Don't run from it. Don't hide from it. It's special,'' said Purnell, whose team's record improved to 16-0 overall, 2-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play with Saturday's win. "We said before the game we're playing for first place in our league and playing to remain undefeated.''
Clemson did so dramatically. Mays' last-second heroics came three days after Cliff Hammonds scored the game-winning layup with two seconds left against Florida State.
Saturday's game-winning play was designed for Hammonds as well. Clemson trailed 74-73 with six seconds left and needing to go the length of the floor.
Georgia Tech had Hammonds covered on the inbounds play, and the pass went to Mays instead, who popped open near midcourt. The 6-foot-9 center turned and drove hard to the basket, splitting two defenders in the lane to score the layup.
"If you had your choice between letting (point guard Vernon) Hamilton, Hammonds or Mays take it to the basket, which one would you pick?'' Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt asked rhetorically after falling to 11-4 (0-2 in the ACC).
Mays finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
Georgia Tech freshman Javaris Crittenton finished with a career-high 22 points, adding six assists and five rebounds.
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.