By Will Vandervort
In the next 27 days, Clemson will play only two home games in the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum and one of those games will be this afternoon when it takes on Wake Forest at 4 p.m.
In between today’s game and a home game on Feb. 15 against Virginia, the Tigers will play have played five out of six games on the road, including games to ACC newcomers at Pittsburgh, at Syracuse and at Notre Dame.
“I’m sure you will find this hard to believe, but I’m not looking ahead. I’m looking at Wake Forest and we will talk about next week, next week,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said.
And though Brownell will not speak about the murderous road that lies ahead for the Tigers, his players are because they know how important a win today over Wake Forest can extend their confidence on such a long and difficult road schedule.
“This is really big,” said guard Adonis Filer, who hit the winning shot at Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. “We are trying to keep the win streak going and we are trying to build confidence as a team together, especially at home because we always want to play well in front of our home crowd.”
The last time the Tigers (12-4, 3-1 ACC) were at home, they beat then 16th-ranked Duke. They used the momentum and confidence they drew from that victory and carried it to Blacksburg where, despite an ugly showing, they found a way to get a second straight ACC win and a second straight conference road win as well.
“It shows a lot of maturity in our team,” Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels said. “We have gotten to the point where we are there for each other. We have each other’s back no matter where we are. Going on the road and getting those wins is a great feeling and a great step forward.”
Wake Forest (12-5, 2-2 ACC) has not experienced those great feelings on the road, but the Demon Deacons are coming off an emotional 70-69 victory over NC State, where guard Codi Miller-McIntyre capped off a 20-point performance with a game-winning layup.
“When you look at Wake Forest’s record, and you see they are 12-5 and you look at the people they have lost to, they don’t have any bad losses,” Brownell said. “They have lost to some teams that a lot of teams are going to lose to and most of those teams are top 50 teams.
“I think they are playing with good confidence. They beat North Carolina at home. They beat NC State at home, two rival games that are really good wins for them. They are coming in here feeling good about themselves.”
That’s why Clemson has to make sure the only team feeling full of confidence after today’s game is the team that is going to be living on the road for a large majority of the next month.
“We can’t take them likely,” McDaniels said. “We need to go out there and play them like they are Duke. We need to do that against every team. We were picked 14th and we want to prove we can do much better than that.
“Going into that road trip, this could be a great win for us. It can be our third win in a row. We can take that, go on the road and keep the same intensity and mentality we have here and go out there and outplay other teams.”