Alabama shoots the lights out, dashes Clemson's Final Four hopes
Chase Hunter looks for a teammate. (Photo by Merrell Mann).

Alabama shoots the lights out, dashes Clemson's Final Four hopes

by - Senior Writer -

LOS ANGELES – No Final Four for Clemson.

Alabama shot an incredible 16-of-36 from 3-point range, and Clemson missed eight free throws in the second half. The Crimson Tide advanced to next week’s Final Four in Phoenix, a program first, with an 89-82 victory over Clemson Saturday night at the Arena.

The Tigers, appearing in just the school's second-ever Elite Eight, were hoping to achieve the program’s first-ever berth in the Final Four. However, the Crimson Tide were too lethal from three-point range, and they will advance to play top-seeded UConn next Saturday.

Joe Girard scored 19 to lead the Tigers, while Ian Schieffelin added 18 points and 11 rebounds. PJ Hall scored 14 and Chase Hunter scored 12. The teams were similar in shooting percentage – Clemson was 33-69 (48 percent) and Alabama was 29-62 (47 percent), but the difference was behind the arc, where Alabama outscored the Tigers 48-24.

Both teams used big runs in the first half. Alabama led briefly at 10-9 and then trailed by just one at 12-11 when the Tigers went on their run. RJ Godfrey hit back-to-back shots to start the run, and Jack Clark hit a 3-pointer from the corner at the 7:35 mark to cap off a 14-2 run and give Clemson a 26-13 lead.

Alabama started the game just 1-13 from the 3-point line, but the Tide turned up the heat just as Clemson went cold. The Tigers scored just four points over the final seven minutes, and Alabama connected on 5-of-6 from 3-point range at one point.

Alabama used a 20-2 run to take a 29-28 lead on a 3-pointer from Rylen Griffen, and the Tide closed the half with a 35-32 lead.

The second half saw the Tigers hang on for dear life while Alabama bombed in threes from all over the court. Point guard Mark Sears was the main culprit. After nailing his fifth of the half, he turned to the crowd, stuck out his tongue, and said, “That’s what we do.”

After starting the night 1-of-13 from beyond the arc, Alabama found the range midway through that half and continued into the second. At one point, Alabama hit 14-of-21 shots from beyond the arc, and when Sears hit one from the corner with just over five minutes to play, the Tide led 71-62.

The Tigers were having trouble hitting free throws and Hall was in foul trouble, and when he fouled Alabama’s Nick Pringle with 3:25 to play, he fouled out for the second time in four tournament games. Pringle scored on the shot and hit the free throw for a 76-67 lead.

The Tigers didn’t fold, however, and Schieffelin bullied his way inside for a scoop and score, and he was fouled on the play. He hit the free throw, and on the next possession, Girard buried a deep three to bring the Tigers back to within three at 76-73 at the 2:16 mark.

Then the Tigers inexplicably left Sears wide open, and he splashed another three to push the lead back to six at 79-73.

Clemson tried to rally, and Godfrey hit a layup at the 47-second mark that made it 82-77 and the Tigers had a chance when the Tide threw the ball to Clark. However, Alabama quickly fouled Clark before he could push the ball to Hunter, and he missed both free throws.

Hunter drove for a dunk to make it 84-79 with 30 seconds left, but the Tigers were forced to foul on the inbounds play. The Tide hit the shots they needed to make down the stretch to secure the victory.

Clemson ends the season with a 24-12 record. Alabama improves to 25-11.

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