Photo by .© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Clemson Basketball

What Alabama said about Clemson before NCAA Elite 8 Battle

March 30, 2024

No. 6 seed Clemson (24-11) and No. 4 seed Alabama (24-11) are set to battle in the NCAA Basketball Tournament Elite Eight on Saturday night to make program history. Both schools are playing in their second Elite Eight and have never reached a Final Four. 

That obviously changes for one of them on Saturday in a rematch of a Nov. 28, 2023 matchup, in which Clemson beat then-No. 23 Alabama 85-77 in the ACC/SEC Challenge.

PJ Hall led the Tigers with 21 points (eight rebounds, four blocks) followed by Joe Girard III (16 points, four assists), Chase Hunter (15 points), and Ian Schieffelin (9 points, 14 rebounds). Mark Sears had a game-high 23 points to lead The Tide with Aaron Estrada (16 points) and Grant Nelson (14 points, eight rebounds) scoring in double figures as well. 

Clemson snapped Alabama's 19-home winning streak inside Coleman Coliseum and moved to 8-4 (4-1 in the state of Alabama) all-time against the SEC school. The Tigers have also won 8 of the last 10 and 2 of 3 in South Carolina. However, Bama leads at neutral sites (2-1). 

Both teams enter Saturday's West Regional contest inspired after upset wins over higher seeds. 

Clemson continued its streak of holding teams 15 points below their scoring average and under 30 percent in three-point shooting with the 77-72 victory over No. 2 seed Arizona. 

Alabama was able to withstand Armando Bacot's 19 points and 12 rebounds and shot over 40 percent (42.3) on 26 three-point attempts to edge UNC 89-87. 

Alabama head coach Nate Oats, shooting guard Rylan Griffen, guard Aaron Estrada, and power forward Grant Nelson spoke on Friday about the hot shooting against UNC, the November loss to Clemson, and the upcoming game with so much on the line. 

On why they shot the ball so well against the Tarheels:


We're excited to be in the Elite Eight. Never been to a Final Four at Alabama. Neither has Clemson, I guess. Two schools trying to get to their first one. I think everybody will be amped up, ready to play.

Clemson, we played them in the non-conference. They were good. We didn't play well. They played well. We've got to do a lot better. They're going to make adjustments from the first game. We're going to make adjustments. They were way too comfortable shooting it. They shot over 50 percent from 3 when we played them at our place. And particularly in the second half, they were 8-of-11. We've got to do a better job with their shooters.

On if either team has an advantage or a disadvantage because they met in November:


They have tape on us. We have tape on them. I don't mind it. We've told our players, from game 1 to game 2, who is going to make the best adjustments. Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn't. We're definitely going to need to be the ones to make improvements this game because they were significantly better than we were at our place. We didn't handle their physicality well. I think we're playing better, handling physicality more. North Carolina was a physical team. I thought we did a good job handling that one.

So this is one that I'm glad we played them early so our players have some idea of the physicality and how good their bigs are because their bigs hurt us a lot inside and their guards hurt us too. We didn't do a good job taking away their best players. I thought Hall and Girard and Hunter all got off on us pretty good the first time.

On viewing this as a revenge game for motivation or is getting to a program first Final Four motivation enough:


I think as us being competitors, there's definitely a revenge factor. Nobody wants to lose to a team twice, especially who you think you can beat. So I think that's just going to add even more fuel to us, and it's going to make us play harder.


We'll use whatever we can at this point, whatever we think resonates with our players. But I think as a competitor if you've got some pride, you got embarrassed on your home court earlier in the year. And you've got a chance to redeem it on a neutral floor. I think that would be a little extra motivation for you right there.

But Clemson's also trying to make their first Final Four. I think they'll be extra motivated. You can't just rely on being motivated because the other team is going to be motivated too. We have to be locked in a scouting report, focused, detail-oriented -- things we've been good here at the tournament maybe we lacked during the course of the year at different times.

On what they remember from the November game and when preparing for Saturday, do they focus more on the past game or what Clemson has done in the tournament:


I think there's a lot to learn from the last time we played them, like, I think we fronted the post a little too much. Gave them too many angles, their bigs. And then we let their shooters get hot.

So I think we've got a lot to learn, but also I mean that was the beginning of the season, and I feel like a lot has changed for them. The same with us.

We're definitely going to make some changes to the scouting report. And I think we're going to do our best to do what we can to stop their best players from getting hot.

On what kind of match-up problems do Hall and Schieffelin present:


They can both get rebounds, which hurt us last time. They're both physical, and I think our scouting report wasn't perfect. We didn't follow it how we should have. We got a lot of adjustments to make. We're still kind of learning our role defensively as a team, and I think we've grown a lot especially in these past three games. I think that will help going into this game.

On what happened in the last Clemson game that they would like to see turnaround:


I would say we need to just guard the post a little bit better and we can't let the shooters come off of screens as easy as they did and hit 3s. They were playing as good as anybody in the country at the time when they beat us. And they had a little fallback, but now they're back to playing like that team that we played earlier in the season, and so we've just got to make adjustments from that game. I think that's a good game to go back and watch because it was against us; we already played them already. We should use that to our advantage.

We lost, so we obviously made a bunch of mistakes. So just watching that game and make sure that we don't make those same mistakes and we come away with a win this time.

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