Clemson has returned to the rankings on the strength of some impressive wins.
Another test comes Tuesday night when the 24th-ranked Tigers host an upstart Western Carolina team.
Clemson (10-2) suffered its only two losses - against Texas A&M and Illinois - in a one-week span, but the Tigers have bounced back with four straight double-digit victories to climb back into the Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 30.
They’ve thrived at both ends of the floor during the win streak, averaging 82.0 points on 51.4 percent shooting while limiting opponents to 58.0 points and 34.8 percent from the field.
One of Clemson’s best performances came in Saturday night’s 94-55 victory over the College of Charleston. The Tigers shot a season-best 60.0 percent and held the Cougars to 33.8 percent shooting.
“I was pleased from the standpoint that I thought we moved forward,” coach Oliver Purnell said. “It was good to see a lot of guys playing well.”
History would seem to indicate Clemson is nearly certain to extend its winning streak.
The Tigers are 9-0 all-time against the Catamounts, with those wins coming by an average of 25.3 points, including a 103-60 victory in the last matchup Dec. 23, 2006.
However, this Western Carolina team comes in well-rested, is searching for its 10th straight victory and - at 10-1 - is off to its best start since opening 15-1 in 1958-59. The Catamounts’ only defeat was a 73-41 loss Nov. 18 at then-No. 3 Texas
Western Carolina will be taking the court for the first time since a 91-83 upset of Louisville at foreboding Freedom Hall on Dec. 12. A pair of reserves led the Catamounts. Junior guard Mike Williams scored a career-high 24 points, and senior forward Jake Robinson added 23.
The Catamounts are on their longest win streak since a run of 11 in a row in 1970-71.
“This was a really good win for our basketball team, and I’m really proud of and happy for our guys,” said coach Larry Hunter, whose team has received two votes in the past two AP polls. “We have a veteran team, and they’ve been through the other end of this. They’ve earned it. It’s a good group with great chemistry, and it’s something we can continue to build upon.”
Robinson (12.4 ppg) and Williams (10.7), who haven’t started a game this season, are the only two Catamounts averaging in double figures, but the team’s biggest star is a defense holding opponents to 61.0 points per game and forcing an average of 19.1 turnovers.
Clemson star Trevor Booker, averaging a team-best 13.7 points and 9.2 rebounds, had four points and four boards in the 2006 meeting. Robinson scored nine for the Catamounts.
Western Carolina guard Brigham Waginger has a chance to break the school’s 40-year-old career steals record Tuesday. He currently has 221 and is tied with Henry Logan (1965-68), the first African-American player to play at a Southern white college.