CLEMSON — Marcquise Reed was frustrated his final year in the Atlantic Coast Conference began with three straight losses. He took it upon himself to make sure Clemson's losing streak didn't get any longer.
Reed had 19 of his career-high 30 points in the opening half as the Tigers opened up a double-digit lead and held on to defeat Georgia Tech 72-60 on Wednesday night.
The Tigers (11-6, 1-3 ACC) had dropped their first three league games for the first time in 19 years and, behind Reed, came out firing early.
Reed said the players didn't panic, just worked hard at practice and showed the positive results on the court. "Today we wanted to play hard, compete and just have fun out there," he said.
Reed was having plenty of fun as he made his first five shots and scored 11 of Clemson's first 20 points as it opened a 20-2 lead less than eight minutes into the game.
After Georgia Tech closed to 35-30 at the half, Reed was at it once more as he scored seven of his team's first 12 points of the period to rebuild the margin with his basket making it 47-33 with 15:03 left. The Yellow Jackets (10-7, 2-2) got to 68-60 on James Banks III's dunk with 1:20 left. But they got no closer as they lost their fourth straight to the Tigers.
"We were more aggressive, I think," said Clemson point guard Shelton Mitchell, who had nine assists and zero turnovers. "We all knew how big this game was."
The defeat also extended Georgia Tech's frustration at Littlejohn Coliseum where it has lost 14 in a row since its last win in February 2005.
Banks led Georgia Tech with 16 points.
Clemson appeared to have the game well in hand, making nine of its first 11 shots to lead 20-2 just seven minutes in. The Tigers were still up 35-20 after Reed's three foul shots with 2:45 left in the half.
That's when the Yellow Jackets found their touch and their defense to close the half on a 10-0 run. Jose Alvarado and Curtis Haywood II hit 3-pointers and Banks blocked a sure dunk by Aamir Simms.
Georgia Tech made its last four shots of the half after starting 5 of 19 from the field.
Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner sensed his team's energy wasn't where it should be at the start of both halves. That, he said, led to Reed having lots of good looks at the basket. "We led him to have some confidence early," Pastner said.
Elijah Thomas had 11 points and Simms 10 for Clemson.
Reed made 10 of 13 field-goal attempts and all eight of his foul shots. He also had six rebounds and four steals. His points output bettered his previous high of 28 set at Virginia Tech in February 2018.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets were coming off a win at Syracuse and hoped to springboard from that into another win on the road. But they missed their first five shots and committed four turnovers (two on shot clock violations) in Clemson's quick start.
Clemson: The Tigers, who began the year in the Top 25, were in danger of falling off the ACC map with a home loss here. Instead, their senior leader in Reed took control early for the win. It was Reed's eighth game with 20 points or more and his first of the season in ACC play.
BIG SHOT MAKERS
Clemson forwards Aamir Simms and David Skara came into the game struggling from behind the arc, a combined 4 of 18 on 3-pointers in ACC play. The two combined to go 5 of 7 on long-range baskets against Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech played without starters in guard Brandon Alston and forward Abdoulaye Gueye and coach Josh Pastner had no clear explanations for the absences. He said Alston missed the game because of personal reasons while Gueye had an "unspecified medical injury."
Georgia Tech: Returns home to play Louisville on Saturday.
Clemson: Heads to Florida State on Tuesday night.
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