CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) _ Trevor Booker had 15 points and 12 rebounds and unbeaten and 25th-ranked Clemson continued its best start in 20 years with a 67-57 victory over Georgia State on Sunday.
The Tigers (14-0) are three wins shy of the school’s all-time best start when the 1986-87 team featuring Horace Grant opened 17-0.
But the Panthers (4-7) made things uncomfortable for Clemson most of the game.
When Ron Larris hit a 3-pointer with 1:05 to go, Georgia State was within 62-55. After Deven Dickerson intercepted a baseball-style inbounds pass for the Panthers, Larris set up for another long-distance shot but Clemson’s Cliff Hammonds blocked it from behind. K.C. Rivers then converted an open shot as the Tigers regained control.
Rivers added 13 points for the Tigers, who open play in the Atlantic Coast Conference on Wednesday night at Florida State.
Rashad Chase led Georgia State with 16 points. Lance Perique, the Panthers’ leading scorer with a 15.8 average, was held to seven points.
Clemson appeared to have the game in hand several times.
The Tigers closed the first half with a 21-7 run to take a 27-19 lead, but the Panthers opened the second half with a 10-4 run to get within a basket.
Booker and Rivers helped Clemson respond with a 13-1 run. Rivers had two 3-pointers, the first coming after Booker’s powerful block of a layup by Perique. Booker then had a dunk and Rivers had another 3 to make it 44-30.
Dickerson scored inside to cut Clemson’s lead to 48-42, but Booker came back with a three-point play. Booker’s jam four minutes later put the Tigers ahead 59-48 with less than five minutes left, which seemed like a comfortable margin.
One last time, Georgia State closed in with Larris’ 3-pointer.
On a rainy New Year’s Eve afternoon, Littlejohn Coliseum was about half filled, and the Tigers came out sluggish.
Clemson started 3-of-10 from the field, including missing its first five 3-point tries, as the Panthers packed in a zone. When Leonard Mendez converted his steal into a breakaway layup, Georgia State was up 12-6 with about 11 minutes to go in the first half.
That’s when Clemson found its stride and closed the half with the 21-7 run. Hammonds got it going with a three-point play and David Potter tied it with a 3 _ Clemson’s only one of the half. Booker put Clemson ahead for good with a power jam.
Booker finished the half in style, his last-second follow from beneath the basket bouncing twice on the rim before falling in after the buzzer sounded to put Clemson up 27-19.