Alabama was handed its worst non-conference home loss in nearly 28 years by Clemson on New Year’s Day in 2008. It will probably be a tall task for the Crimson Tide to avenge that loss on the road.
The Tigers look to win their 15th straight at home when they meet Alabama (10-3) for the second straight season in the non-conference finale for both schools Tuesday.
Clemson (14-0) is among four remaining unbeaten Division I teams and has started 14-0 for the third time, joining the 1986-87 and 2006-07 squads that won 17 straight to open their seasons.
Last season, Clemson capped a 12-1 start with an 87-61 win in Tuscaloosa. Alabama suffered its most lopsided home non-conference defeat since a 28-point loss to Ohio State in 1970.
After the game, Clemson forward Trevor Booker said he felt the Crimson Tide “quit” and “gave up” over the final seven minutes. Alabama coach Mark Gottfried didn’t let his players speak to the media.
“I’m completely, 100 percent embarrassed at how my team competed in the second half,” said Gottfried.
The Tigers outscored the Tide 47-26 after halftime as the frontcourt of Booker, James Mays and K.C. Rivers combined for 51 points in the contest. Clemson shot 58 percent in the second half.
Mays is gone from last year’s team, which reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade. But Rivers and Booker are back as the two leading scorers on a squad that could be even better.
This season, the Tigers have won their games by an average margin of 19.2 points and come into Tuesday with five straight double-digit victories, including Saturday’s 79-66 win over East Carolina. Rivers and Booker combined for 31 points as Clemson committed six turnovers, its fewest in Oliver Purnell’s six seasons running the program.
Alabama enters with a five-game win streak after an 88-77 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday. Ronald Steele had team highs of 23 points and 10 assists in his most complete effort of the season.
“I’m just getting better and better,” Steele said. “I just tried to do the things we needed to win the game.”
Alonzo Gee recorded his second double-double in three games Saturday with 15 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Gee was one of the few bright spots from last year’s game against Clemson with 17 points.
“Steele and Gee are as good as we’ve faced,” said Purnell, who is 11-4 against SEC teams. “I’m not going to say we’re not ready. We’ve won on the road in the ACC. We’ve won on the road in the Big Ten. We’ve won on the road in the SEC, so I’m not worried about it.”
Tuesday’s game will also mark the first true road contest this season for Alabama, which has a nine-game road losing streak dating to Nov. 28, 2007.
The Tigers lead 4-3 in the overall series and have won four of the last five meetings.