Clemson coach Brad Brownell watched his team struggle through the first month and a half wondering what it was going to take for the Tigers to realize their potential.
Coincidently, it was a performance in a double-digit loss that had them believing they could play with anyone in the country.
Clemson now is on the verge of its longest win streak in five years and can topple a fourth straight ranked opponent Tuesday night when it visits struggling No. 13 Virginia.
The Tigers (12-6, 5-1 ACC) were one game over .500 after falling 80-69 at then-No. 7 North Carolina on Dec. 30 but came away pleased with the effort. They haven't lost since and can win six in a row for the first time since an eight-game run in 2010-11.
Their streak includes upsets of then-No. 16 Louisville on Jan. 10 and then-No. 9 Duke on Jan. 13 before they beat then-No. 8 Miami 76-65 on Saturday. Jaron Blossomgame scored a season-high 25 points against the Hurricanes, and his average of 17.3 per game in conference play leads the ACC.
“We had a chance to win (at North Carolina). Ever since then we felt really confident,” Blossomgame said. “That's taken this team to where it is right now. The sky's the limit for this team.”
Clemson has lost the last three meetings with Virginia, though, including a 65-42 defeat last season when it shot just 35.7 percent from the field and Blossomgame was the team's leading scorer with nine points.
The Tigers have lost all five meetings in Charlottesville since last winning there in 2008, but they could be heading there at the right time. The Cavaliers (13-4, 2-3) have dropped three of their last four have had little time to prepare for Clemson after falling 69-62 at Florida State on Sunday.
As impressed as Brownell is with the Tigers' run, he knows winning at Virginia presents a more difficult task. The Cavaliers have won 34 of their last 35 at home, while Clemson is 2-4 in road and neutral-site games this season.
“I'm excited about what we're doing and hope we can continue it,” Brownell said. “(Virginia is) going to get going again. They're too good not to get things figured out.”
Tony Bennett sure hopes Brownell is correct. His Cavaliers do boast a victory over Miami last Tuesday during their rough stretch, but their 39.3 field-goal percentage against the Seminoles marked their second-lowest of the season.
London Perrantes scored a game-high 19 points, although he went 4 of 13 from the field. Malcolm Brogdon shot 4 of 17 and finished with 10.
The team has had issues on defense, too. Florida State shot 48.8 percent, becoming Virginia's 13th opponent at 40 or higher. That happened 11 times in 34 games last season when the Cavaliers were third in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (36.7).
They're only ninth in the 15-team ACC this season with opponents at 42.7.
“It's tough,” Bennett said. “When you can't count on at least getting a stop and making them earn it, those things hurt.”
Bennett knows beating the Tigers won't be easy despite Virginia's recent success against them, and he's not expecting Clemson to be fazed by the raucous crowd.
“With the talent in the league and the depth of the league, you're know you're going to have to scrap and dig deep,” Bennett said. “They're a tough team. They defend well and then they have some versatility offensively. (Blossomgame is) one of the better players in the league right now.”