“Today’s game was a tale of two halves for us,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “I thought we were very competitive in the first half, thought our defense was extremely good, we forced them into a low percentage shooting from the field and the three-point line. We got in some early foul trouble. They beat us up on the line in the first half.
“But with all of that said, we go into the halftime down by three and we’re feeling pretty good. They hurt us a little bit with their 1-3-1 halfcourt trap, but we were still feeling pretty good, like we were in the game. But it kind of fell apart for us in the second half. We turned the ball over too much, didn’t shoot it as well. That’s what happens against an experienced team that knows what they’re doing; they took advantage of it.”
The Crimson Tide got out to a strong start over the first five minutes, taking a 9-2 lead and holding Xavier (5-0) to 0-of-5 shooting. Alabama also outrebounded the Musketeers 9-3 during the stretch. The Tide then went cold, shooting just 2-of-10 from the field in the next five minutes as Xavier answered back with their first field goal at the 13:47 mark to spark a 6-0 run and pull within one point.
With 9:52 to play in the first half, Alabama began a five-plus minute scoring drought that saw them turn the ball over six times as Xavier used another 6-0 run to take a 14-13 lead. Shannon Hale hit the team’s first three-pointer with five minutes to play in the half to retake the lead, but Xavier would counter with an 8-0 run and took a 23-16 lead. Hale finished the half with a final three-point basket as time ran out to close to within three, down 27-24 at the midway point.
The two teams combined for 17 turnovers and just 29 percent shooting over the opening 20 minutes. Alabama had 13 fouls to the Musketeers five, which turned into 19 free throws for Xavier compared to Alabama’s two.
The Tide cut the lead to two points, 30-28, early in the second half, but the Musketeers would answer. Xavier notched back-to-back threes sparking a 13-0 run over 3:32 to give the Musketeers a 43-28 lead with 13:25 left in the game. Xavier later used a 6-0 run over 2:23 to take a 51-32 lead with nine minutes to play. Xavier went on to cruise from there and remain undefeated on the year.
Xavier shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half to the Tide’s 28 percent. Alabama finished shooting 18 percent from behind the arc (5-of-28) and turned the ball over 18 times.
Hale and Justin Coleman led the Tide with 10 points each, while Retin Obasohan, the team’s leading scorer entering the game at 14.5 ppg, was held to just two. Dazon Ingram led with a game-high nine rebounds followed by Jimmie Taylor and Michael Kessens with five a piece. Freshman Donta Hall led the Tide in blocks for the fourth straight game with three.
Trevon Bluiett scored 15 points for Xavier and J.P. Macura scored 14 off the bench. Jalen Reynolds has nine rebounds and James Farr grabbed seven.
Alabama will play the loser of Southern California/Wichita State Friday. The game will air on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app at 11 a.m. CST (noon EST)