What Alabama players said about facing Clemson in Elite Eight

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Alabama basketball has already had a crack at Clemson this season. It didn’t go well for the Crimson Tide, which dropped the first matchup 85-77 in November at Coleman Coliseum.

The two teams are set to meet again in the NCAA Touranement’s Elite Eight on Saturday. It’s a rematch UA was looking forward to.

“We owe them one,” Alabama guard Aaron Estrada told AL.com after the Tide beat North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen Thursday. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

The Crimson Tide are the fourth seed in the West region heading into Saturday’s matchup at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. UA beat out Charleston, Grand Canyon and UNC to get there.

Clemson entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed, beating New Mexico before upsetting Baylor and Arizona. The Tide is favored for Saturday’s game, and players said the team has changed since it dropped the game early in the season.

“We’re a different team from November,” Mark Sears said. “Way better from November. We’re a new team.”

Alabama’s defense has improved since then. The Tide is still not one of college basketball’s top teams in that department, but now it’s at least capable of making stops when needed.

Crimson Tide forward Nick Pringle praised how Nate Oats and Alabama’s other coaches have prepared the team for the Clemson rematch.

“We had Clemson (film) before we left here, ” Pringle said. “They had it uploaded. We were ready. That’s one thing I love about this team, we always have somebody working. We understand the importance of moving on to the next play, moving on to the next person.”

Defense was the area Alabama players cited the most as the area where they’d like to improve the most from the November matchup. Rylan Griffen went into specifics from the podium.

“I would say we need to just guard the post a little bit better and we can’t let the shooters come off of screens as easy as they did and hit threes,” Griffen said. “They were playing as good as anybody in the country at the time when they beat us.”

Grant Nelson, who played the game of his life against North Carolina, and had a solid showing against Clemson in November, described the challenge of going up against Tiger bigs PJ Hall and Ian Schieffelin

“They can both get rebounds, which hurt us last time. They’re both physical, and I think our scouting report wasn’t perfect. We didn’t follow it how we should have. We got a lot of adjustments to make. We’re still kind of learning our role defensively as a team, and I think we’ve grown a lot especially in these past three games.”

Alabama and Clemson are set to face off at 7:49 p.m. Saturday in Los Angeles. The game will be aired on TruTV and TBS.

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