Four new starters are likely to struggle, particularly away from Coleman Coliseum. And there are few places more difficult to play than at Xavier in Cincinnati.
Alabama is now 8-3 on the season, while Xavier improved to 8-4. The loss broke a six-game Crimson Tide winning streak. Bama will continue on the road as Southeastern Conference play begins next Saturday. Alabama will take on LSU in Baton Rouge at 2 p.m. CST., a game that will be regionally telecast on the SEC's Jefferson-Pilot network.
After an impressive upset of 15th ranked Wisconsin earlier in the week, Alabama had visions of a national ranking. A win over Xavier might have achieved that spot in the polls. It wasn't to be. Xavier seemed to be far more motivated than Alabama. The Tide was sluggish on offense and didn't have the defensive intensity it has had in most games this season. The Musketeers were more aggressive offensively and defensively and got most of the "hustle" balls as Bama had a lackadaisacal game, heretofore uncharacteristic of this team.
Gottfried said, "They out-played us in every aspect of the game, which is disappointing. We felt we had been making some good strides. Today we looked like a young, inexperienced team, which we shouldn't be at this time of the season. We didn't play very well. Xavier played like there was no tomorrow."
The coach said, "Before the season would I have taken a record of 8-3 after our first 11 games? We'd all want to be 11-0, but I think I would have taken 8-3. This game doesn't take away from a lot of good things this team has done."
Xavier is now 7-0 in home games and has an all-time record of 47-3 in its three-year-old arena.
Alabama's first half offense was disappointing as the Tide scored only 28 points and trailed by five points. But that was nothing compared to the paucity of points in the second half. Alabama scored only 19 points. Although the game was not in doubt by midway through the second half, the final margin of 21 points was the greatest Bama deficit.
Alabama started the game impressively and built a four-point lead at 18-14. But Bama then went some six minutes without scoring while Xavier went on a 10-point run to take the lead for good. Down 33-28 at intermission, Alabama scored the first field goal of the second half to pull within three points. then again went on a long scoring drought as the Muskateers stretched the lead into double figures. Alabama scored only two field goals in the first eight minutes of the second half and trailed by 14 at that point.
A key reason for Bama's loss was poor ball security. Alabama suffered 17 turnovers and the Musketeers scored 22 points off those miscues. The smaller Xavier squad had a 32-25 edge in rebounding. Kennedy Winston led the Alabama rebounding effort with eight.
Anthony Miles had 19 points to lead Xavier. "Our post defense was not very good," Gottfried said. "He got the ball whenever he wanted it inside."