Tide Basketball Still In Tailspin

Earlier in the week, Alabama Coach Anthony Grant talked about his team needing to prepare so that in close games the Crimson Tide would have a chance to make the plays to win. He also said he saw progress, even though Bama had lost all five of its games against decent opposition. Make that six, and make it more work to be done.

Alabama built a 12-point second half lead, then had to play desperation basketball to keep the final score a respectable 77-74 loss to Xavier. The Crimson Tide fell to 5-6, with the five wins all against very low level competition. Xavier improved to 9-3.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant gave credit to Xavier for making the plays to win, particularly controlling the backboards and getting to the free throw line. Xavier had 17 offensive rebounds in winning the battle of the boards by 38-34.

The Musketeers scored 19 second chance points to only 9 for Alabama and outscored the Tide by 38-28 in the paint.

The game marked the end of the Crimson Tide's three-game homestand. Next up for Bama is UCLA in Los Angeles Saturday, Dec. 28. Alabama's next home game will be Jan. 4 against Robert Morris.

In the first half it appeared that Alabama had a new weapon. Freshman Shannon Hale came off the bench and scored a career high 10 points in eight minutes of play to fuel Alabama to a 33-26 lead at intermission. He played only five minutes in the second half, finishing with 14 points in 13 minutes.

Hale fueled a 10-point first half run that took the Tide from a three-point deficit to a 17-10 lead in the first period. Rodney Cooper got the score tied at 10-10 with a trey. Hale, who would score 10 points in the first half, had a three-pointer and a nice driving shot to propel Bama. Hale had a second three-pointer in the first half and also had a nice baseline drive to cut off an Xavier rally. Hale's drive was followed by Levi Randolph's three-pointer that got the Alabama lead to nine points at 31-22.

However, two free throws and a short jumper by Xavier's Isaiah Philmore pulled the Musketeers to within 31-26 in the final minute. Alabama had the last shot of the half and Retin Obasohan was fouled taking it. He made both shots and got the Tide lead to 33-26 at halftime.

Trevor Releford had played only 10 minutes and scored only two points in the first half because of foul trouble. He scored 15 second half points, including a three-pointer that kept the pump working on Alabama's life support system.

The problem was that Alabama went without making a field goal from a Releford layup at 9:48 giving Alabama a 55-48 lead until only 19 seconds remained and Releford made a three-pointer to close the gap to 73-71.

The Xavier formula was to move the ball to the basket and either make it or get fouled or both. And make the free throws. The Musketeers also got some timely three-point shots from James Farr in the comeback win for Xavier.

Xavier made 22-28 free throws, 17-22 in the second half. Alabama made 20-30 on its foul shots, including 15-23 in the second half.

At the half, Alabama had five points off Xavier turnovers and the Musketeers had not scored a point off a Crimson Tide turnover. At the end of the game, Alabama had scored only two more points off Xavier turnovers (7 points off 6 turnovers) and Xavier had scored 8 points off the Tide's 9 turnovers.

Alabama got 17 points from Trevor Releford, 13 from Levi Randolph, and 14 from shannon Hale. Hale was 5-7 from the field including 3-5 on three point shots.

Alabama hit 23-47 field goals, 48.9 per cent, while Xavier made 25-63, 39.7 per cent. The Tide was good on 8-19 three-pointers (42.1 per cent) and Xavier made 5-15 (33.3 per cent).

Xavier was led by Isaiah Philmore and Matt Stainbrook with 17 points each and Dee Davis with 12. Philmore had 12 rebounds.

Xavier tied the game for the first time since it was 10-10 in the first half at 61-61 when Matt Stainbrook scored on a short shot on an inbounds play and was fouled and made the free throw. A few moments later Myles Davis made a layup and was fouled and made the free throw for a 64-61 lead and Alabama was never able to catch up as the Musketeers scored on 9 of their final 10 possessions.

Perhaps the most disappointing possession of the game came with just under two minutes to play and the Tide trailing by five points. The Bama offense failed to get a shot away until the final second of the shot clock (and it missed the rim).

As for the final margin, Retin Obasohan made a three-pointer with four seconds to play to pull the Tide to within a point at 75-74, but Bama had to foul and the Musketeers made a couple more free throws to seal the win.

TIDE NOTES: Alabama's starting lineup was the expected five – center Jimmie Taylor, forward Nick Jacobs, and guards Trevor Releford, Retin Obasohan, and Levi Randolph.

Carl Engstrom, who played 10 minutes in the first half with a basket and four rebounds, started in the second half in place of Taylor.

Freshman Shannon Hale had 10 points in the first half. His previous high game at Alabama had been eight points against Georgia State. He finished with a career high 14 points, although he played only 13 minutes.

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