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Tigers to take on Alabama in inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge

Toby Corriston
Senior center PJ Hall drives to the basket against Boise State.

The Clemson men’s basketball team (5-0) has yet to take a loss in its early season. But on Tuesday, the Tigers will be facing their hardest opponent yet, the No. 23 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1).

The Tigers will travel to Alabama for the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge at the Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, looking to keep their undefeated streak alive after having an offensive masterclass in their previous game against Alcorn State (1-7). In the 90-69 win, star center PJ Hall dropped a career-high 29 points, going 11 for 18 shooting from the floor, in addition to nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Hall leads the ACC with an average of 21.4 points per game and is currently ranked 19th in the country in per-game scoring averages.

“You know, I really didn’t want to play him 34 minutes, but it’s just one of those nights we weren’t playing as well as I liked defensively,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “I did want him to log a lot more minutes than he has in some of the other games just because he hasn’t done it as much this year. So he needed to, he needs to do that every once in a while, and that was good for him tonight.”

This season, senior guard Chase Hunter has also come up big and has been a major contributor to this offense. In Clemson’s convincing victory over Alcorn State, Hunter demonstrated his offensive versatility, scoring a career-high 18 points and dishing out seven assists. The Tigers also recorded a season-high 26 team assists in the game.

However, Clemson’s offense won’t be the side of the ball it needs to focus on, as the Crimson Tide allow 74.8 points per game, which ranks 263rd in the nation.

Clemson must focus on its defensive strategy heading into their first ranked opponent matchup. The Tigers allowed all five of the opposing team’s starters to score double figures in their previous game against Alcorn State, and they led by just 11 points at the half. Against the Crimson Tide, who lead the country in points per game with 97.8 on 54.1% field goal efficiency, Clemson will be keened in on limiting scoring opportunities.

“I think we’ve been pretty good defensively. I mean, we’re not where we need to be consistently, but I think we’ve had some good outings,” Brownell said. “We’ve had some spurts where we haven’t been as good as we need to be, and we’ve had some where we’ve done a good job. We’ve got to sustain better, and we’ve got to come out of the gates a little bit better in some of these games.”

Clemson is the underdog heading into this game and has expressed that it’ll be a challenging game based on the environment and pure talent of the opposing team. Nevertheless, the players are still excited to play such a talented team.

“It’s going to be a real challenge for us, our first true road game,” Brownell added. “I’m sure it’ll be a difficult environment for us to compete in; our guys will have to play with great poise and determination to win the game,”

Clemson’s players added that Alabama is a tough opponent and will be an important matchup for the Tigers.

“They’re a good team; they’ve had a great program the last five or six years, so it should be a good game,” Hall said.

“We don’t really know much about personnel-wise, probably about to get into that tomorrow, but we know they’re a good team like (Hall) said: We’re just excited and ready to play against them,” Hunter added.

With shooting splits of 61/55/86, Alabama’s starting guard Mark Sears leads the SEC in scoring at 20.3 points per game this season, in addition to five rebounds and 4.2 assists per contest.

Fellow starting guard Aaron Estrada leads the team with 1.7 steals per game and is averaging 17 points per game on the season. With an average of 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and two blocks this season, Grant Nelson, a transfer from North Dakota State, has been one of the Tide’s most impactful players on both ends of the court. All three of these players should be closely watched by the Tigers’ defense heading into this matchup.

Clemson looks to remain undefeated and put everybody on notice of its team heading into this contest. Tipoff is slated for 9:30 p.m. at the Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday.

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About the Contributors
Angelo Feliberty, Senior Reporter
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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