Alabama basketball cashes ticket to Final Four with win over Clemson

by 24USATVMarch 31, 2024, 8:01 a.m. 20
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LOS ANGELES — Game and game again, someone unexpected decides to play March Madness hero for Alabama basketball.

First, it was Mo Dioubate in the Round of 32. Then, it was Grant Nelson in the Sweet 16. But Nelson’s time as hero had to be short-lived. Foul trouble limited his minutes in the Elite Eight. So someone else had to wear the cape.

Pringle, the senior forward not known for his shooting, scored double digits in the second half while grabbing rebound after rebound. Stevenson, the freshman who's supposed to be a senior in high school, made five triples.

Pringle battled, got tough baskets and hit some late free throws to push the Crimson Tide to the first Final Four in program history, all while Pringle was dealing with a bruised heel. And Stevenson kept hitting big shots. As a result, Alabama defeated Clemson 89-82 on Saturday at Crypto Arena. Pringle scored 13 points in the second half while grabbing seven rebounds.

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Here are observations and takeaways from the game between No. 4 seed Alabama (25-11) and No. 6 seed Clemson (24-12).

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First half anything but a layup for Alabama basketball

The start was ugly on offense. No other way to put it.

Alabama struggled to make shots. Layups especially proved difficult. No matter who it was, drives to the rim too often proved fruitless. There were plenty of missed opportunities to score some easier buckets. Alabama started the game 5-for-15 on layups in the first half.

With triples not falling much either early for the Crimson Tide, Clemson eventually started to build a lead. The Tigers went up by double digits about halfway through the first half. But even when shots weren't falling, Alabama kept battling. It fought for rebounds and made defensive stops.

Those efforts made a difference and didn't let Clemson run away with it in the first half. Because eventually, shots started falling.

After making only one triple for the first 13 or so minutes of the game, Alabama drained five over the final seven minutes before the break. Jarin Stevenson and Mark Sears each made two a piece. Those efforts contributed to Alabama going on a 20-2 run late in the first half. As a result, the Crimson Tide held a 35-32 lead at halftime.

Sears had marginal impact in the first half. He only made one shot on seven tries.

Then the Sears who emerged from the locker room for the second half was a completely different player.

The senior guard was on fire from deep in the second half. He drained triple after triple, often answering Clemson 3-pointers with one of his own. Sears went 6-for-7 from deep in the second half.

Pringle and Stevenson also played vital roles down the stretch. Stevenson hit triples, with three in the second half and five total. and Pringle battled.

Alabama will advance to the Final Four for the first time in program history, and will play on Saturday against No. 1 seed UConn at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Nick Kelly is the Alabama beat writer for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network, and he covers Alabama football and men's basketball. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him @_NickKelly on X, the social media app formerly known as Twitter.

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