Getting fired up: Clemson's Brownell, USC's Martin hope for more passion from fans on annual game

BY DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 12/19/17

For the head coaches of the men's college basketball programs of two schools that are supposed to have one of the most heated athletic rivalries in the country, South Carolina's Frank Martin and …

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Getting fired up: Clemson's Brownell, USC's Martin hope for more passion from fans on annual game

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For the head coaches of the men's college basketball programs of two schools that are supposed to have one of the most heated athletic rivalries in the country, South Carolina's Frank Martin and Clemson's Brad Brownell wish there was more passion for their annual meeting.

Brad and I speak about this, we laugh about it in private," Martin said last week in a press conference. "Nobody talks about until it the day before the game. No one ever says we've got to go to an ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) school when talking about our strength of schedule. He never gets any credit because he plays South Carolina.

"We're friends; we talk, we laugh. Neither one gets credit for playing the other."

The teams will see if that carries over today when they play at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson beginning at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Brownell's Tigers will bring a 9-1 record into the contest after topping then No. 22 Florida 71-69 on Saturday in Sunrise, Florida. He is hoping for a full house in Littlejohn.

"Everybody in the state of South Carolina, if they want this to be a big game, they've got to help make it a big game," Brownell said in a Greenville News story on Monday. "Frank and I are trying hard to do our part by putting good products on the floor. You just hope that's recognized.

Frank and I would both like to see the fan bases get behind it, get excited about it. We want to see this game be as important as it should be. It should be sold out. We're playing our rival in a very big game."

The Gamecocks, who went to the Final Four last season for the first time in program history, will bring an 8-2 record into the contest. Martin though is trying to mesh a slew of newcomers with just a few players who saw significant time last year.

"We've been playing teams with a lot of juniors and seniors," Martin said. "They know the style they're playing. We're still learning that at this point."

Clemson is loaded with experienced players in its starting lineup. Each member is averaging double figures in scoring.

Senior Donte Grantham leads the way with 15.5 points per game. Redshirt junior guard Marcquise Reed, who on Monday was named ACC Player of the Week is next at 14.6. Shelton Mitchell, also a redshirt junior guard, is averaging 12.6, and senior Gabe DeVoe is at 11.7. Junior center Elijah Thomas is just missing a double-double, averaging 11.3 points and 8.9 rebounds.

The amount of experience those guys have is ridiculous," Martin said. "|It's kind of like what we had last year with Sindarius (Thornwell), Duane (Notice) and PJ (Dozier).

"We've got our hands full. But you know what? Two weeks from now we've got 18 Clemsons coming at us (in the Southeastern Conference schedule), so we better be ready."

Junior Chris Silva, a starter on last year's team, leads USC in both scoring and rebounding at 13.7 and 8.0, respectively. Graduate transfer Frank Booker is averaging 11.4 points and freshman Justin Minaya is averaging 10.8 points. Carolina's other two starters, Maik Kotsar and Hassani Gravett, are averaging over nine points.

"We have a short turnaround against a very good team," Brownell said. "They're very physical. Frank gets his guys to play as hard as anybody we'll play all year. Defensively they really disrupt you and make it difficult for you to get into a flow."