ATLANTA - Clemson coaches and players alike had noticed junior guard Damarcus Harrison's work in practice.
Junior forward K.J. McDaniels says he's usually the last one on the court taking shots. His coach Brad Brownell was watching and waiting for that to translate into a consistent run on the court.
Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, that time came.
Clemson 63, GT 55
Tigers win a ninth in a row ...
Posting 14 points in a win over N.C. State already this week, Harrison scored 10 of Clemson's last 18 points to spark a rally and 63-55 win at Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets (13-14, 4-10 ACC) stretched to their largest lead of the game over a minute into the second half, nine, but Clemson (17-9, 8-6) was showing signs of life.
"I thought we didn't quite have the energy needed early on in the game," Brownell said.
"Credit Georgia Tech. I thought they were really ready and controlled the first half. Our guys just did a better job (in the second). Got some energy going and made some shots."
While his perimeter shot clanked, McDaniels took the initiative to drive to the hoop – and defend it, scoring all six field goals on two-point attempts and rejecting two Tech attempts in the second half. He totaled 16 points to reach double-figures for the 25th time in 28 games.
Trailing by seven at the 16-minute mark, Clemson's defense began to lock down – holding the Jackets to four field goals in an over 10-minute span to stay in it.
Trailing by a possession or tied for over nine minutes, the Greenwood native Harrison broke the ice with his second 3-pointer of the game, giving the Tigers a 48-46 lead. It was Clemson's first edge since less than eight minutes into the first half, and they wouldn't fall behind again.
A minute later, Harrison drained another three from the corner, but emblematic of the Tigers' second session, momentum fully swung Clemson’s way on a Harrison steal-and-layup for a 55-48 advantage with 2:06 to go.
"It's good to see his three go in," Brownell said. "I know he's worked hard on it. When he has good life and energy, Demarcus is another player. That steal was the energy-type play I'm consistently on Demarcus about. Not the shooting or whatever else it is. Become an energy guy and the rest will take care of itself.
"Certainly with the play of K.J., he's going to draw the attention of everybody else."
Harrison finished with 15 points, on 5-of-7 shooting. He's in agreement of Brownell's assessment.
“I'm started to figure it out right now,” said Harrison. “I'm just trying to show up practice and in the games. I'm just trying to play with same intensity, because when I play hard I have good games."
Sophomore center Landry Nnoko joined the double-figure fray with 13 points and added six boards. This week, Clemson put up back-to-back games with three in double-figures for the first time since the end of non-league play (VMI) and the ACC opener (at Boston College). It had been nine games since Clemson had two in a row with two in double-figures, and no one's happier about that than McDaniels.
Tigers put together another complete game
"It can mean a lot," he said. "It can show that we have a lot of weapons on the team and I'm not the only player on the team. It takes a load off of me and gives everybody else confidence to go out there and make baskets."
On the flipside, Georgia Tech also had three with double-digit scores, but senior center Daniel Miller posted only four of his 14 points in the second half.
The Yellow Jackets shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and 38 percent in the second session. Clemson shot 42 percent in the first half and 50 percent in the second. The Tigers overcame a halftime deficit for the second time this week, which had only happened in consecutive conference games twice prior.
Clemson's run in the series against Georgia Tech stretches to nine wins in a row, and since 2006, they've won 15 of 19. If the two don't meet in the ACC Tournament, Miller and three more seniors were not on the court for a Tech win over the Tigers.
Clemson reached four ACC road wins for only fifth time in school history and can tie the school record at Wake Forest on Tuesday.