Tough Xavier squad up next

There's not many things during the pre-conference schedule that could top a home win over No. 15 Wisconsin-but a win on the road at Xavier might just be one of them.

With a record of 7-4 and no ranking, the Musketeers aren't the best team on Alabama's schedule. But a road win would push the Crimson Tide to 9-2 before the start of a rigorous conference schedule and also push aside some doubts about Alabama teams in the past being unable to win away from Coleman Coliseum.

The Musketeers are coming off a 93-76 win over Morehead State, but its four losses have come to Iowa State, Indiana, Ball State, and Mississippi State. Xavier defeated Mercer, a team that Alabama defeated by 57, by a score of 72-58.

Kennedy Winston has developed into a clutch scorer.

"We're excited to face them," point guard Antoine Pettway said. "Our coaches told us there isn't a ticket to be had to the game. It'll be loud. They'll be a tough crowd. They'll make it tough to win on their court.

"But we figure if we just play hard for 40 minutes, play good defense, then we'll be fine."

Alabama's only road game was at Providence, where the Tide found itself down by 22 early in the second half before cutting the deficit to two and losing by five, 74-69.

The Tide lost to Pittsburgh on a neutral court and defeated Oregon on a neutral court where it seemed like the Ducks had more fans in Las Vegas than the Tide.

"I think for our team it's a great challenge," Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. "We've played one road game at Providence and this gives us another opportunity to go into somebody else's house."

Certainly, Gottfried respects his opponent's talent. "I think Xavier is an excellent team," Gottfried continued. "They've played a great schedule. I don't think their record is indicative of how good they are because they've had some good losses to quality teams.

"I think it's going to be a great test."

Xavier is led by senior 6-5 guard Romain Sato, who averages 16.6 points per game. Sato also leads the Musketeers in rebouding with 6.6 per game. In a three-guard lineup, guards Lionel Chalmers and Dedrick Finn are also averaging in double digits. Chalmers, a 6-0 guard, is second on the team with 13.3 points per game, and Finn averages 10.4 points per game and leads the Musketeers with 54 assists.

Antoine Pettway knows it will be tough to win on the road at Xavier. (Kent Gidley photo)

In the front-court for Xavier, Anthony Myles averages 9.3 points per game and Will Caudle averages 4.6 points per game. Both stand 6-9 and weigh around 240 points.

The back-court match-up between the two teams should be interesting, as both teams feature a heady point guard and wing guards/forwards who have proven to be capable scorers.

With 20 points against Wisconsin, Earnest Shelton upped his team-leading scoring average to 17.6 points per game. Kennedy Winston is second on the team with a 15.7 points per game average. Pettway leads the Tide with 40 assists and 23 steals.

In the front-court, sophomore forward Chuck Davis is coming off a career-high 21 points against Wisconsin. Davis isn't as thick as the Xavier forwards, but counters with quickness and is a better scoring threat. He is averaging 11.7 points per game. Freshman Jemareo Davidson (6.5 points per game) will start at center, but sophomore Evan Brock (4.8 points per game) will spell him at forward.

The game will be televised by ESPN and will tip off at 2:30 p.m.

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