College Hoops

Alabama freshman Jarin Stevenson just latest hero for Final Four-bound Crimson Tide in win vs. Clemson

Alabama freshman Jarin Stevenson just latest hero for Final Four-bound Crimson Tide in win vs. Clemson

LOS ANGELES — Alabama freshman Jarin Stevenson was sitting in a classroom as a junior at Seaforth High School in Pittsboro, North Carolina, around this time last year. Months later, he decided to speed up his timeline as a college basketball player by reclassifying to join the Crimson Tide for the 2023-24 season.

Stevenson had to grow up fast as a 17-year-old this season in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. On Saturday, in the Crimson Tide’s game against No. 6 seed Clemson the Elite Eight, Stevenson had to accelerate that process even faster after Alabama big man Grant Nelson ran into foul trouble.

Stevenson came in cold off the bench and delivered the best performance of his basketball career in the biggest game in Alabama basketball history. Stevenson scored 19 points and hit five 3-pointers in an 89-82 victory in the West Regional final to send Alabama to its first Final Four in program history. The Crimson Tide will face No. 1 overall seed and reigning national champion UConn on Saturday in a national semifinal in Glendale, Arizona.

“Getting in the gym and working on my jump shot prepared me for this moment,” Stevenson told CBS Sports. “Working with coach (Nate) Oats and finding opportunities to make plays, defensively looking to make plays. That’s really paid off. … (this week) has been amazing. Having these moments, it’s great. Beating North Carolina, that was a great moment. Making it to the Final Four and making it past Clemson, that’s history made.”

Unsung heros stepping up in big moments has been the theme of Alabama’s deep NCAA Tournament run. In the second round, reserve big man Mouhamed Dioubate recorded nine points, five rebounds, and two blocks in a 72-61 win over GCU. In the Sweet 16 against No. 1 seed North Carolina, Nelson emerged by finishing with 24 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks in the 89-87 win over the Tar Heels.

In the Elite Eight, after Alabama All-American guard Mark Sears got off to a cold start and missed nine of his first 11 shots, it was Stevenson’s turn to become the hero. Stevenson’s steady and mature presence off the bench helped the Crimson Tide erase a 13-point deficit midway through the first half. It allowed the Crimson Tide to return to a high-tempo pace that propeled them to finish with the top-ranked scoring offense.

“His performance was everything,” Nelson said. “We are playing for a Final Four and Jarin, a freshman, who is supposed to…

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