It only took a benching for him to show it.
A day after being replaced by Ricky Doyle in the starting lineup, Donnal responded in a big way, scoring a career-high 13-points, including 2-of-3 from three-point range, as Michigan fell to SMU, 62-51.
But no bucket signified Donnal’s scoring outburst more than his offensive rebound at the 12:21 mark of the second-half. What he did next, well, was something we hadn’t seen from Donnal all season. It was emotion -- or more like an outcry.
Donnal took the rebound went back up and got the lay in and the foul.
Afterwards, uncharacteristically, Donnal screamed with emotion. A surprise to many, considering he’s more known for his low-key soft demeanor.
“It’s something I’ve had me,” Donnal said, when asked about emotional response. “Having success like that. I need to bring it out, I guess.”
“We talk about guys got to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” U-M coach John Beilein said. “And some players are not unlike Mark and are sort of just out there. And they don’t realize, the old story about boiling water, at 211-degrees it looks like one thing – that one more degree makes a huge difference.” Did the benching help Donnal help him find his extra degree?
“I didn’t find it, he found it,” Beilein said of Donnal’s play. “I mean, he did today what he hasn’t been doing. He’s got to understand now he’s had success. And makes a correlation between ‘My effort area has improved and now looked what happened. We didn’t win the game, but I was a better player today.’
“And it’s a thing you try to get out of him in practice every day.”
Donnal says he didn’t use the benching as motivation, but U-M’s losses that have mounted over the past two weeks is what added to his energy today on the court.
“I was using the fact the losses we had in the past. We need someone to energize this team,” Donnal said. “I’m just trying to do my job. And that’s part of my job is bring energy off the bench now.”
That energy was noted by U-M star Caris LeVert, who struggled with five-points on 1-of-8 shooting for the Wolverines.
“His confidence was high today,” LeVert said. “He played well. He played through that the whole game.” At 6-foot-9, 240-pounds, Donnal has the ability to hit the outside shot. And was asked to be more aggressive in his role off the bench by Beilein.
“I don’t know what the magic is but when you take a guy and take him out of the starting lineup, he usually comes back a lot more relaxed,” Beilein said. “And that’s part of the reason I think I spoke about [Friday] that you make that change. The starter sometimes is maybe feeling too much. So I like him. I told him before the game, ‘I want you coming off this bench with a shooters mentality.’ He is a very good shooter. And we got to use him more like that in the future.”
Donnal’s says his confidence displayed today came from Beilein.
“We’ve progressed over the course of the season,” Donnal said. “He’s built trust in me that I’m able to take those kind of shots. He has full confidence that I can make them.”
Michigan sure does need them.