Hall's big game helps unbeaten Clemson win 85-77 at No. 23 Alabama in ACC/SEC Challenge

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — PJ Hall had 21 points, eight rebounds and four blocks to lead Clemson past No. 23 Alabama 85-77 on Tuesday night.

Joseph Girard III added 16 points, four assists and two steals for the Tigers (6-0) in a game that was part of the ACC/SEC Challenge. Chase Hunter had 15 points and Ian Schieffelin scored nine to go with 14 rebounds.

“We are a little different than a lot of teams in college basketball in that we post the ball,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We play two big guys, we move our big guys in and out, high-low. That’s part of our style. When you do pressure like Alabama was pressuring us sometimes, we have more opportunities to throw it in sometimes.”

RJ Godfrey contributed 11 points off the bench as the Tigers shot 53% from the field, including 11 for 21 from 3-point range. On the other end, Clemson held Alabama (5-2) to 34% shooting overall in its worst offensive performance of the season.

Alabama coach Nate Oats attributed the offensive struggles to the difficulty his team had with the toughness of Clemson’s guards, which made it hard to get to the rim and create kickout 3-pointers from those opportunities.

“We’re definitely not tough enough to be competing for an SEC championship right now, that’s for sure,” Oats said. “We’re going to play tough, physical teams in the SEC like Tennessee that are going to try to do similar things and we have to be ready for it.”

Mark Sears led Alabama with 23 points, including 4-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc. The Crimson Tide led by seven with just under 13 minutes left but were outplayed the rest of the way.

Aaron Estrada scored 16 for Alabama, and Grant Nelson added 14 points and eight rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson’s first true road game was an emphatic success, as the Tigers took down a Top 25 team in their first clash with an opponent from a power conference this season. Winning away from home will be critical coming up, given Clemson's first two ACC games are on the road, against Pitt and Miami, with a nonconference road game against Memphis in between.

The early portion of Clemson’s schedule didn’t provide many opportunities to begin building a strong NCAA Tournament resume, but early success on the road can change that quickly, and the win against Alabama was a crucial first step.

Meanwhile, the loss dropped Alabama to 1-2 against teams from power conferences after four convincing wins over mid-major opponents to start the season.

Alabama pointed to its woes on defense, regularly citing that it entered Tuesday with the top-ranked offense in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, but ranked 61st in the country on defense by the same metric.

“That’s something we’re really focused on and we’re going to get that fixed,” Sears said. “No matter how long it takes.”

UP NEXT

Clemson: Plays its first ACC game at Pitt on Sunday.

Alabama: Six days off before hosting Arkansas State on Monday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball