After nearly tying its best start in school history, Clemson has started a familiar slide. A visit from the Atlantic Coast Conference’s only winless team could help break the skid.
Looking to avoid a third straight loss, the 10th-ranked Tigers (16-2, 2-2) meet Georgia Tech (9-9, 0-5) on Sunday.
Clemson came within a victory of tying the 2006-07 squad’s school-record 17-0 start, but has dropped back-to-back games - to current No. 1 Wake Forest 78-68 on Jan. 17, and at No. 5 North Carolina 94-70 on Wednesday.
Continuing that skid could put the Tigers on a similar path to that record-setting team, which went 8-11 to close out the season and ended up in the NIT. Clemson also began last season 12-1 and went 12-9 after that, but earned its first NCAA Tournament berth in 10 seasons.
A combined 34.5 percent shooting has hampered the Tigers in their defeats this season. Clemson, which made 48.9 percent of their shots during its 16-0 start, has also allowed opponents to shoot 50.8 percent in the last two games.
In its 54th straight loss at North Carolina, the Tigers started the second half by missing 16 of their first 20 shots. They also gave up a season high for points and allowed the Tar Heels to shoot 53.0 percent.
“We did talk at halftime that we really needed to be ready, that the first four minutes were going to be critical. And they were,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said.
Despite his team’s struggles, sophomore guard Terrence Oglesby averaged 18.5 points in the consecutive losses. However, leading scorer Trevor Booker (14.6) has tallied only 16 in that span, and K.C. Rivers endured one of his worst games of the season against North Carolina with seven on 2-of-9 shooting.
Rivers needs 12 points to become the ninth Clemson player to reach 1,500.
The Yellow Jackets have started 0-5 in conference for the first time in seven seasons, but three of those losses have come in overtime, including the past two defeats.
Georgia Tech rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit on Tuesday against visiting Boston College. But Eagles star guard Tyrese Rice scored six of his game-high 26 points in the extra session to hand the Yellow Jackets their fourth straight loss, 80-76.
Georgia Tech also blew a 10-point lead with 4:40 remaining at North Carolina State on Jan. 17, and fell 76-71 for its fourth straight road defeat.
Freshman guard Iman Shumpert, who is scoring 11.9 points per game, has averaged 19.0 in those losses.
Georgia Tech has dropped nine of its last 10 against ranked opponents, but the lone victory was an 80-75 home win over then-No. 24 Clemson last season. The Yellow Jackets also defeated the then-25th-ranked Tigers in Atlanta on Feb. 3, 2007.
However, Georgia Tech has dropped the last three at Clemson and 28 of 36 at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets lead the overall series 57-54 and have won two of the past three meetings.