At the end, though, it was the former starter who came through.
Zachery Peacock made two free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining and the Yellow Jackets (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) knocked off another ranked team, beating Clemson (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) 66-64 on Tuesday night.
Both teams turned the ball over in the final seconds, squandering chances to put up the winning shot. Finally, Georgia Tech inbounded to Peacock with 5.1 seconds left. He drove toward the free throw line and lost control of the ball, but Trevor Booker was called for a reach-in foul. The senior calmly sank both foul shots on a night the Yellow Jackets made just 11 of 22 at the line.
"Just like another day in practice shooting free throws," Peacock said. "I feel as calm and cool as I want to be."
Surpassing its Atlantic Coast Conference win total for all of last season, Georgia Tech (14-4, 3-2 ACC) improved on its best start since 2006-07 with its first back-to-back wins over ranked teams since a run to the Final Four in 2004.
The Yellow Jackets have beaten three Top 25 teams over an 11-day span, knocking off Duke and North Carolina before edging the Tigers (15-4, 3-2).
Georgia Tech got big production from its big men. Finally looking like one of the nation's top freshmen, Favors had 17 points, 14 rebounds and several spectacular dunks. Lawal contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds despite running into foul trouble.
Peacock, who started all 30 games last season, had to accept a role off the bench after Favors signed with the Yellow Jackets and Lawal decided to return for another season rather than enter the NBA draft. It's a spot that seems to suit the senior just fine.
"It's all about finishing games, not starting 'em," said Peacock, who had six points and five rebounds. "I've beat that into my head so much it's just second nature. It doesn't bother me at all."
Favors has struggled a bit in his first -- and what's expected to be his only -- college season. But he was a force in this one, also coming up with three blocks and a steal. The only number he'd like to have back was a 1-of-5 showing at the foul line.
"I'm starting to play a lot better," Favors said. "All the hard work is paying off."
The game was hardly a masterpiece by either team. Georgia Tech shot just 39 percent from the field, including a dismal 3 of 17 from 3-point range. Clemson was even worse -- a mere 37 percent shooting -- and only 10 of 20 at the line.
Booker put the Tigers ahead 64-62 on a pair of foul shots with 1:25 left, but D'Andre Bell knocked down a couple of free throws to tie it up again with 1:09 to go.
That's when things got really sloppy. With about a six-second difference on the shot clock and the game clock, Georgia Tech's Mfon Udofia drove toward the lane, fell down and was called for walking. Clemson had a chance to set up for a winning shot, but Demontez Stitt took off toward the basket a little early, had Iman Shumpert and at least one other defender get a piece of the ball, then watched in dismay as it skidded out of bounds off his left thigh.
"That was the play of the game," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who wasn't sure which players got a hand on it.
Clemson had its final inbounds pass knocked away around midcourt and never got off another shot. Booker led the Tigers with 19 points.
"Our guys don't have anything to hang their heads about," coach Oliver Purnell said. "They came on the road in the ACC against a hot team and we put ourselves in position to win."
Georgia Tech got off to a miserable start, missing nine of its first 11 shots and squandering four other possessions with turnovers as Clemson raced out to a 9-2 lead.
But the Yellow Jackets finally got it going just before the midway point of the opening half, beginning with Lawal's dunk that provided the home team with its first lead, 13-11. They wound up making nine shots in a row, stretching out the margin to 31-21, before the streak ended on an airball by Favors.
Georgia Tech led 35-29 at the break, continually breaking Clemson's press with a series of high-flying dunks. But this one became an ugly grind, coming down to which team could deliver the final blow.
"That was a rough game to watch because both teams really played hard defensively," Hewitt said. "It just became a game of trading punches."