Bama wins Top 25 battle

After a loss to Utah on Monday, the nation's No. 1 team was down, but the Alabama Crimson Tide proved on Saturday that they weren't going to stay down for long. <br><br>In a battle of heavyweights, the Tide (10-1) outlasted the Xavier Musketeers (9-3) by a score of 65-58.

Erwin Dudley led the way for the Tide, with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Mo Williams added 17 points.

The game was billed as a match-up between preseason All-Americans Dudley and Xavier's David West. It appeared that West was going to win the battle, as he cruised to 16 points in the first half, but West was held scoreless and without a rebound in the second half.

"For some reason I couldn't get going in the second half," West said. "I felt good coming out of the half, but I couldn't get in a position to score."

In the first half, the Tide found themselves down 16-11, but went on a 19-0 run, sparked by a change in the defense. The Tide switched into a 2-3 zone, and started putting full-court pressure on the Musketeers, causing turnovers which the Tide took advantage of.

"Our press and our zone helped us," Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. "That was the run that made the difference in the game. We've got a team that understands that their defense has to be at a high intensity level every night."

Bama's Erwin Dudley won the All-America showdown with Xavier's David West, garnering 18 points and 10 rebounds to 16 and eight for West. (AllSport)

The Musketeers responded with a 13-2 run of their own, but a Williams three-point basket ended that run. However, Xavier went into the locker room trailing only 35-32 as a result of a three-point play by West at the end of the half.

While West didn't have his game in the second half, guard Romain Sato heated up, scoring 17 of his game-high 20 points in the frame. The Tide led by as many as 13 points, but Xavier battled their way back and cut the lead to three with under a minute. But on the next offensive possession West was called for a charge, something that took the game away from the Musketeers as the Tide iced it on free throws by Antoine Pettway and Dudley.

"It was a bad call (by the referee)," West said, of the offensive foul. "We didn't even get a chance to determine the outcome for ourselves."

Alabama's defense held Xavier to 38 percent from the field for the game, including 33 percent in the second half. The Tide also forced 19 turnovers, outscoring the Musketeers 26-9 off the miscues, and picked up a season high 11 steals. Helping the Tide's cause on the defensive end was junior Antoine Pettway who picked up a career high five steals.

In the game, the Tide helped themselves out by scoring 26 points off 19 Xavier turnovers. The defense was solid again, causing the Musketeers' shooting percentage to drop from 43 percent in the first half to 33 percent in the second half.

While things went the way of the Tide on the scoreboard, they did have a scare when starting small forward Emmett Thomas left the game in the second half with a knee injury. Gottfried said that it did not appear serious, and while the knee has to be looked at, he thinks Thomas will be ok.

Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried was pleased to see a packed house. "What a great crowd," Gottfried said. "What a phenomenal crowd for a non-SEC game here. It's absolutely fantastic. Wednesday night we need the same type of atmosphere. Our players feed off that. Our players need that. They appreciate that and they know it helps them. So thank you to our fans."

The non-conference schedule is now over, and a 16-game conference season will begin on Wednesday as the Arkansas Razorbacks come into town. The pre-conference season saw many highs, as the Tide was ranked No. 1 for two weeks, but it's time to forget what happened then and move on to what really counts.

Last year, the Tide won the overall SEC Championship with a 12-4 record.

"It was a big win for us however you look at it," Williams said. "But this season's over with. The second season starts Wednesday. Erase the 10-1 record and the No. 1 ranking for now."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Chris Woodfin of Alabama's Media Relations Department contributed to this report.

BamaMag Top Stories