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Interior Exposed Again: Clemson punishes ‘Bama’s soft post, downs Tide 85-77 in Coleman Coliseum

The Tide’s 19-game home winning streak went down to Clemson on Tuesday night, 85-77, as Alabama falls to to 5-2.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Alabama
Aaron Estrada tries to score around Clemsons PJ Hall
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports


In the first year of the ACC-SEC Challenge, the Alabama Crimson Tide fell to the Clemson Tigers 85-77 on Tuesday night on its home floor. The SEC claimed four of the seven games on Tuesday, and the other seven games will be played on Wednesday. The loss broke Alabama’s 19-game home winning streak. The Tide fell to 5-2, while the surprising Clemson Tigers improved to 6-0 on the season.

As has been a common thread with ‘Bama losses in the Oats era, defensive collapses, cold shooting and an inability to manufacture points largely doomed the Tide’s offense — who still put up respectable totals but were unable to keep up with the Tigers who found way too many easy buckets all night.

But the real story of the night was Alabama being abused time and again inside the post.

Those hoping that a fundamental interior softness exposed last season against San Diego State and others had been remedied, had those hopes drowned in the bathtub. Pringle has not been the answer in the middle, and even shaking up the lineup by inserting MoWag didn’t pan out. All night, Clemson had their way in the paint against the flailing Tide, absent a true rim defender.

Until ‘Bama can get a lot tougher on the inside, as well as find ways to gin up points when perimeter shots aren’t falling, Tide fans may need to adjust their expectations for the ceiling of this club.

But, if a silver lining is here, it is perhaps that Clemson is another vastly underrated, high-quality veteran tourney-type team, which had the benefit of catching Alabama early in the season and on its worst shooting night of the year.

Last season, despite being a sub-.500 team, Ohio State was 46th in the NET rankings. Clemson likewise played good ball, finishing 23-11, with a 9-6 record against Q1/Q2 teams and making the NIT.

Knock on wood.


Coach Nate Oats changed up his starting lineup to begin the game, staying with Mark Sears, Aaron Estrada, Grant Nelson, Rylan Griffen, and inserted Mouhamed Wague for Nick Pringle.

Oats was looking for better defense, particularly at the rim. Clemson’s best player is 6’10’ senior center PJ Hall, who came in averaging over 21 points and seven rebounds. The Tigers play a methodical, physical style, and they used that to their advantage tonight.

Clemson started strong and led 9-4 at the 17:22 mark of the first half. The Tide was able to close the gap when Sam Walters and Estrada hit three-point attempts. The Tigers pushed back out to a 25-17 lead with 7:56 left in the half. After two free throws by Wague, Nelson and Sears hit back to back three’s to tie the score at 25 each. Sears scored the next six Tide points on four free throws and a layup and it looked like Bama would take a led into halftime. Clemson was able to take advantage of the only Tide turnover of the half and scored the last four points of the half to lead 33-32 at the intermission.

‘Bama shot a miserable 10-36 for 28%, with an even worse 4-18 from three for 22% at the break. Eight-of-eleven shooting at the free throw line helped keep the team in the game. The Tide had 23 first half rebounds, five assists, five steals, one block, and the aforementioned one turnover. Sears and Estrada both had nine points. Clemson shot 14-30 for 47%, 3-10 from deep, and 2-3 at the line. The Tigers also had 23 rebounds to go with six assists, three blocks, and no steals. Hall had eight points at the break.

Oats kept the same starters for the second half, and they came out of the gate hot. Griffen nailed a deep three ball, Estrada made a basket at the rim, and Sears punctuated things with a long three-pointer, and all of a sudden the Tide led 40-35.

Clemson tied things up with 15 minutes left, before Bama had another burst. Sears, Latrell Wrightsell, Jr, and Sears again nailed long baskets to build a 53-46 lead with 12:46 left, putting the somewhat lethargic crowd into a frenzy — at least momentarily.

After a Clemson timeout, things changed for the worst, and with 10 minutes left a 13-0 Tiger run gave them a 59-53 lead.

‘Bama was able to hang around, and when Estrada and Nelson hit back to back three’s with eight minutes left, the score stood at 66-63 in favor of the visitors.

Then the wheels fell off over an eight-minute stretch, where the Tigers outscored the home team 30-13. With 4:37 left Clemson led 76-66. Over the final few minutes, ‘Bama could not get any closer than six-seven points within the Tigers. Clemson’s Joseph Girard and Hall continued to stick daggers in the Tide, and there was no answers for them, and no catching up.

In the second half Bama shot 13-31 for 42%, did improve to 7-17 on three for 41%, and made 12-15 free throws.


Overall, the Tide shot only 34% in the game on 23-67, with 11-35 from deep, and made 20 of its 26 free throws. Alabama was 12-32 from two-point range in the game, the majority of those at the rim on layups and floaters in the lane. Alabama had 41 rebounds, three blocks, seven steals, 12 assists, and only seven turnovers.

Sears led the team with 23 points on 7-14 shooting with 4-9 from three. Sears added four rebounds, three assists and only one turnover. Estrada added 16 points and five rebounds and Nelson joined the duo in double figures with 14 points and a team leading eight rebounds. No one else scored over six points for the Tide.

Clemson shot a blistering 18-30 for 60% in the half with 8-11 for 73% from deep, while making 8-12 from the charity stripe. Overall, the Tigers shot 32-60 for 53%, 11-21 for 52% from deep and 10-15 for 67% at the line.

Clemson matched Alabama with 41 rebounds and blocked seven shots, stole four balls, dished 12 assists, and made 11 turnovers. Hall was the big gun with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Girard added 16 and Chase Hunter 15.


Who would have thought that the player most missed from last years team isn't Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, or even Jahvon Quinerly, but the man in the middle, Charles Bediako?

We feared in March, after Bediako’s abrupt and ill-considered departure, that could turn out to be the case. And, through a quarter of the season, his absence has been haunting. Bediako’s toughness, presence in the paint, and rim protection are what the Tide is currently missing the most.

Oats keeps preaching defense to this group, but the sermon hasn’t hit home yet. Sears said after the game that “it doesn't matter how good our offense is, if we don't fix our defense it won't matter.”

Throughout tonight’s game, Clemson outmuscled the Tide, backing down defenders for easy hoops and at many points, sending bodies sprawling. It was eerily reminiscent of the Tide’s exit from the NCAA Tournament: Abused in the post, Alabama gives up good looks to veteran guards who knocked down their shots.

Bediako even offered more on offense than the combination of Pringle, Wague, and Jarin Stevenson are offering at the moment. The young freshman, Stevenson, was bullied tonight by grown men, and considering he should just be a senior in high school that is not a big surprise.

There is a lot of season ahead, and the Tide has time to fix their problems, but they are going to have to do it while playing the toughest OOC schedule in the country. Oats has a track record of his teams improving as the season goes along, and this team definitely has to improve on the defensive end.

It’s not time to write this team off, nor to even panic, but it is time for this group to get serious about defense. Given Oats’s history, you can’t imagine poor defenders will keep getting substantial minutes.

Up Next:

Old friend Bryan Hodgson will bring his Arkansas State Red Wolves to town on Monday, December 4th for a 7 p.m. tipoff. The game will be shown on the SEC Network.

Then things really pick up. On Saturday the 9th the Tide will play #1 Purdue in Toronto, Canada, followed by a road trip to top 10 Creighton on the 16th, and a trip to the desert to play #2 Arizona on December 20th.

Roll Tide


How concerned are you about the 2023-2024 team?

  • 3%
    Hair is on fire, our pets heads are falling off!!!
    (9 votes)
  • 59%
    Very concerned. I’m not sure you can suddenly find a better post presence on the roster and the defensive effort is worrying.
    (164 votes)
  • 25%
    The team has flaws, but Alabama can disguise a lot of them with better all-around defensive play.
    (71 votes)
  • 10%
    Not at all. The team has nine new players on a 13-man roster; it’s going to take time to gel and learn the expectations of the program, especially on the defensive end. They will get there.
    (30 votes)
  • 0%
    (2 votes)
276 votes total Vote Now