BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Shelton Mitchell scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed five rebounds Sunday as Clemson defeated Alabama 67-54.
Alabama (5-5) narrowed Clemson's lead to 11 points or less three times over the final 12 minutes. Clemson's Gabe Devoe responded by sinking 3-pointers the first two times to maintain the double-digit advantage for the Tigers (8-2).
Fellow Tiger, Avry Holmes' only points in the second half came on a 3-pointer that followed Devoe's, a sequence that both coaches felt was critical in the game.
"It was big. That's what you got to do in road games," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "Make big shots, you know the home team's going to make a run or two."
That big shot didn't fall the third time Devoe took one from behind the arc to secure Clemson's double-digit lead, and Alabama cut the lead down to nine points for the first time during the second half.
Clemson held on, responding to the Crimson Tide's late 7-0 run with a layup from Mitchell who also sank four free throws over the final minute of the game.
Devoe finished with 11 points to join Mitchell in double figures for Clemson.
Brownell said his team's defense wasn't up to his expectations in Clemson's game on Tuesday against SC State, but he thought it was a difference maker today, especially in the first half.
"I just think we kept them to one shot was a big thing, and I thought our guys were locked in," Brownell said. "We had some time to get ready from our last game so we prepared very well. I thought our individual defense was pretty good."
Avery Johnson Jr. came off the bench for the Crimson Tide to score a career-high 17 points. He was the only Alabama player to finish in double figures.
"We told our guys he's a great layup maker and that's a skill a lot of guards don't have, being able to make shots over top of shot-blockers and big guys when you make penetration," Brownell said.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide was unable to overcome a first half that saw the team miss 11 straight shots from the floor and must now win one of the team's next two games to avoid starting Southeastern conference play under .500.
Clemson: The Tigers overcame a sluggish start of their own to get revenge for last year's 51-50 loss to the Crimson Tide and extended the team's current winning streak to six games with the victory.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide's tour of its home state continues with a trip to Huntsville, Alabama to face Arkansas State on Wednesday.
Clemson: The Tigers can earn their second straight win against SEC competition with a road victory over rival South Carolina on Wednesday.
HE SAID IT: Alabama coach Avery Johnson on taking care of the basketball: "Like I tell our guys all the time. Think about your closest family member. You're not going to throw them away because you love them right? Just think about this, so value that ball just like you value your closest family member."
Alabama: The Crimson Tide finished the night 3-of-20 beyond the arc and only made one of seven attempts taken in the final three minutes.
Clemson: The Tigers finished the night 9-of-22 shooting 3's and made three of six shots taken behind the arc in the final 11 minutes of the game and attempted none in the final three minutes.
Oregon and Gonzaga both win in games that went all the way down to the wire and finished on defensive stops.
As 71 percent of brackets predicted, Kansas is on to the Elite Eight after blowing out Purdue, and 49 percent see the Jayhawks beating Oregon next.
Kansas turned on the jets in the second half and the top-seeded Jayhawks soared to a blowout of No. 4 seed Purdue.