Tigers overcame mental and physical fatigue to earn first win over top-25 team on one day of rest
When No. 17 Clemson got home early Friday morning from its game at Raleigh, Brad Brownell made a decision that paid off in Saturday’s 72-63 win over 18th-ranked Miami.
He gave his team a day off from practice and a day off from shooting as well. In fact, Clemson did not touch the floor again until shoot-around prior to the start of the Miami game.
Instead, Brownell had his team watch film of the NC State game for 30 minutes, where they went over some things they did wrong. Then after eating a sandwich with his team, Brownell went over Miami film and what the game plan was going to be, and then he gave them the rest of the day off.
In terms of playing two games in less than 48 hours, it was a good strategy by the Clemson head coach, who knew his team was tired physically and emotionally after such a tough defeat at NC State. But he knew his team could handle it, too. He saw it in the NC State game when they kept getting off the deck and coming right back at a motivated Wolfpack team.
“For our team to battle the way we did at NC State, when we were really down on our back … and it was not just the last minute and thirty. We were losing in rounds, too. I told our guys at halftime that it feels like we are getting knocked into a corner and every time I look up we always right back to the middle of the ring and we are down a basket,” he said. “I thought we did that throughout the game and I thought we did it throughout the second half.
“And then with a minute and a half to go, and we probably had the standing eight-count, but we came back and we almost put it to overtime.”
Clemson (15-2, 4-1 ACC) trailed by 12 points with 1:34 to play, but with 0.2 seconds left it was a free throw away from tying the game.
“I’m as proud of that with this team as anything,” Brownell said. “That is hard to do and it is hard to keep doing it. We are not so talented that we can go out there and just play okay and beat these teams. We have to play well and we have to give great energy and effort and we have to be prepared and focused.
“It helps having older players because that is what enables us to do it more often.”
Those older players came through on Saturday when the Tigers’ tired legs started to show and Miami, who had six days off, made one last push. But veteran Mark Donnal, a graduate transfer from a Michigan program that made the NCAA Tournament all four years he was there, made two crucial threes to give Clemson a working margin and then Marcquise Reed and Donte Grantham hit two back-breaking threes to seal the victory, Clemson’s first over a top 25 team with less than 2 days of rest.
“I thought they showed a lot of heart, toughness and grit in this game,” Brownell said. “I thought we were battling a little bit of mental and physical fatigue at times. Miami is a very strong, athletic team that does a lot of things really well.”
“Our guys have competed and fought,” he continued. “We’ve battled and we just have to keep doing it. That’s what you have to do … you have to embrace it.”