Turns out it was just what No. 17 Clemson needed in its win over No. 18 Miami
Following Clemson’s 72-63 victory over No. 18 Miami at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, Brad Brownell told the media he was a little more animated on the sideline Saturday afternoon than he normally is because he felt it was a game the 17th-ranked Tigers needed to win and he wanted to show his team how important it meant to him.
So since he was feeling a little “animated,” why not show it some, too.
When he was recruiting Mark Donnal to Clemson after the Michigan graduate decided he wanted to transfer, Brownell’s former player, Billy Donlon, a former assistant coach on the Wolverines’ staff gave Brownell a little tip on how to handle the 6-foot-9, 232-pound center.
“He told me, ‘now he plays better when you get mad at him.’
Until Saturday, Brownell has not had the opportunity to test Donlon’s theory out. However, when Donnal messed on the defensive end of the court midway through the second half, Brownell lit into the graduate student.
“He made a bad defensive play and being that I was pretty animated today, I let him have it pretty good,” the Clemson coach said with a smile. “Ironically, he goes in and makes the next two threes.”
Before the threes, though, Donnal made perhaps the play that turned the tide and gave Clemson the momentum it never lost. Following a block by teammate David Skara on an Anthony Lawrence shot, Donnal sent Chris Lykes’ attempted layup into the seats, sending the sellout crowd at Littlejohn into a frenzy.
“That is my job, to bring energy off the bench,” Donnal said. “I think that block put us together. We kind of needed to put together a few stops to kind of get a lead and I think that was kind of the turning point in the game.”
On Clemson’s next possession, Donnal drained a three-pointer to give the Tigers’ a 47-44 lead with 10:46 to go. Nearly a minute later, he hit a second straight three, for a 50-44 advantage. Though the Hurricanes cut the lead to two points a couple of times after that, they never got all the way back as Clemson pulled away for the nine-point victory.
“It’s something I do in practice all the time,” Donnal said. “All the guys know I can shoot and I have the capability to do that on any given day so it’s just about my teammates finding me and being in the right position at the right time and shooting it.”
Donnal finished the game with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting overall. He was also 4-for-4 from the foul line and had five rebounds.
Saturday was the second straight game in which Donnal gave the Tigers a spark off the bench. He had 13 points, all in the first half, against NC State earlier in the week.
“That is one his attributes is his ability to play away from the basket and make plays,” Brownell said.
The Clemson coach says the best thing about Donnal is his attitude. Even though he does not start, he comes off the bench and gives the Tigers’ 15 to 20 minutes a night and never complains.
“Mark just comes to practice every day and does what you need him to do,” Brownell said. “He is an unbelievable teammate. The guys love him. He is extremely quiet. He just kind of goes about his business, but he does it almost like a professional.
“He is a professional in the way that he handles himself and carries himself and practices and because of that our guys love him. So when he makes a shot, you see our whole bench jump up because they love him and they appreciate the sacrifice he is making and the kind of young man he is. It is a lot of fun to have him around.”
Now Brownell just has to figure out a reason to get mad at him when the Tigers play at North Carolina on Tuesday night.
“I got to find something,” he said laughing.