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Clemson surges late, knocks off #23 Alabama

Tigers stay undefeated with statement win on the road.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The 6-0 Clemson Tigers officially have their best start to a season since 2008-09. The Tigers secured their most impressive win of the season late Tuesday night with a 85-77 win in Tuscaloosa over the star-studded Alabama Crimson Tide. The new ACC/SEC challenge has given the Tigers a much needed resume boosting win in November. The Tigers were already receiving votes in the AP Poll and Coaches’ Poll prior to Thanksgiving, this win should solidify a spot in Monday’s rankings for Brownell’s squad.

Physicality was key for Clemson en route to victory. It was clear the Tigers were not going to give Alabama anything easy for the entire 40 minutes of action. The Clemson frontcourt played with an edge all night long, punishing the Tide inside. Alabama’s bigs were a combined 8-for-40 from the floor. PJ Hall set the defensive tone early, effecting nearly every shot around the rim. Hall totaled four blocks on the night, his highest mark this season. In the post-game, Alabama head coach Nate Oats said the Tigers physicality “bothered us on both ends.”

Clemson’s guards stepped up in a huge way. Girard and Hunter both turned in great performances, particularly down the stretch in the second half. Girard showed why he was so sought after in the transfer portal. His veteran presence is what this offense has been needing the last couple of seasons. Hunter had a slow start, but caught fire at the right time, draining three shots from 3-point range in the final nine minutes of the game.

Joe Girard III made four of his seven 3-point attempts, putting him 9th all time for made threes in ACC history. He his addition has been crucial to the team, and his impact Tuesday night was immeasurable in a box score, which he also filled. Girard finished with 16 points on 10 shots, notching four assist and two boards.

Ian Schieffelin was a workhorse on the glass, grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds. He was in the right place at the right time, dismantling the Tide around the rim.

Both teams got off to slow starts offensively, settling for contested jumpers. Clemson held a slight lead for majority of the first half, but had 32-29 deficit in the final minute of the half. Josh Beadle went on his own 4-0 run, cashing in driving layups on back-to-back possessions to conclude the first 20 minutes of play and give the Tigers a one-point halftime lead.

Alabama’s largest lead came with 12:52 remaining to play, up 53-46. The Tigers responded with a 13-0 run and never looked back. That was the theme of the night: When the Tide thought they were back in the fight, Clemson would answer with a resounding blow. Alabama went on a nine minute stretch of not making a field goal late in the second stanza.

PJ Hall iced the game at the foul line, going 4-for-4 from the stripe in the final 30 seconds. Hall had yet another great offensive outing, scoring 21 points, his fourth game with 20 or more points on the 2023-24 campaign.

RJ Godfrey had an extremely efficient 14 minutes off the bench. Shooting 5-of-6 from the field for 11 points, but it was the intangibles that made Godfrey so effective. Godfrey’s motor was on full display, winning the Tigers offense extra possessions with his hustle on numerous occasions.

Alabama’s Grant Nelson, who was one of the most sought after portal prospects over the offseason, was held in check. Nelson had 14 points on 15 total shots, he was never comfortable inside where he was bullied by Hall, Schieffelin, and Godfrey all game.

Clemson’s road win snapped a 19-game home win-streak for Alabama and was their first home non-conference loss since 2020. Don’t look now but Clemson is officially on the national radar. Next, Clemson opens up conference play on the road at Pitt on Sunday before heading back home to face the rival Gamecocks next Wednesday. If you haven’t tuned into the Tigers on the hardwood yet this season, consider this your wake up call.