CLEMSON, S.C. — Brad Brownell still has some Wright State University blood running through his veins, so Tuesday night was a somewhat different experience for him.
Brownell is in his 10th season as Clemson’s head basketball coach and directed the Tigers to a 75-69 win over WSU in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at Littlejohn Coliseum.
He was Wright State’s head coach from 2006-07 to 2009-10, posting an 84-45 record. Scott Nagy now leads the Raiders.
“I still follow the program and the teams and still talk to folks back that way,” Brownell said. “Scott’s done a great job with that team and their program. They’re winning at a high level and you can see why. He coaches them really well. They’re very well set up. Good players. Play the game the right way. Take care of the ball. Physical. Compete defensively. Smart.
“I don’t really love playing my former schools Wilmington and Wright State — now I’ve done it with both. But it’s fun to see a few faces that you spent some time with and enjoy. Certainly I pull for those guys and want that program to do well.”
A season to remember: Wright State’s 21-14 campaign included the regular-season title in the Horizon League (shared with Northern Kentucky) and a huge turnaround after a difficult start.
“We were picked to win the league and got off to an awful start nonconference,” Nagy said. “We were 8-10 at one point and 2-3 in the league, and we really went on a run after that. It’s partly because our freshmen got better, Malachi (Smith) and Skyelar (Potter). The other part was we finally got good defensively because we weren’t very good early.
“We’re not the most talented team in the world, but our kids do play hard. The kind of year we had is the reason I came to Wright State, and hopefully we can build on it.”
Love-ing post success: Sophomore Loudon Love tallied 14 points and nine boards for Wright State, hitting 7-of-12 shots from the floor.
Nagy admitted he gets frustrated with the 6-foot-9, 280-pound Love at times, but he couldn’t argue with his production against a quality opponent like Clemson. Tigers big man Elijah Thomas (6-9, 245) was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference All-Defensive Team.
“They’re big guys, an ACC team. There’s only so many times we play teams like that,” Love said. “I think we were able to go at them as a team and really push those guys to a place where they were uncomfortable on defense sometimes. We really fought tonight.”
Point guard missing: Clemson played without point guard Shelton Mitchell, a graduate student, because of a knee injury.
He had started every game this season, averaging 11.5 points, 3.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds per contest.