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Alabama unable to hang on to lead against Xavier

XavierUA_0018Alabama ends a three-game home stand with Xavier tonight in front of a decent crowd considering it is the holiday season and the students are gone. The Crimson Tide have been unable to take advantage of non-conference schedule against quality opponents thus far on the season.  On Tuesday Alabama let Wichita State sneak by with missed free throws and the inability to close out the second half.  The Tide fell victim of the same scenario tonight against Musketeers dropping to 5-6 on the season with the 77-74 loss.

The first half was nearly equal in the amount of time that each team led. Xavier jumped out on top but Alabama took over at the 10 minute mark and retained the lead through the half going in 33-26.  Freshman Shannon Hale scored a career-high 14 for Alabama with 10 of those points coming in the first half.

Alabama came out in the second half very strong and at one point the Tide led by as many as 12 points.  With the big lead Grant started to substitute the younger players into the game and get the much needed experience.  But then nearly midway through the half the Musketeers went on a 14-3 run.  “From the 12-minute mark on, we could not get stops,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. XavierUA_0032

It was at that point that Grant decided to put the veterans back into the game but it was just a little too late. “We had a tough time getting any continuity.” Grant said, “We weren’t a unit offensively or defensively,”

With just under five minutes to go in the game Xavier took their first lead since midway through the first half and never gave it up again.  The Musketeers were only able to grow their lead by five and Alabama would cut it to one a couple of times, but could never regain control.

The same problems that haunted Alabama against Wichita State returned against Xavier.  The Crimson Tide went 20-30 on free throws while Xavier was out of character on the night making almost 80% of theirs (22 of 28), but rebounding was probably the larger issue for the Tide on the night.  The Ohio visitors were able to bring down 17 offensive rebounds to Alabama’s eight.

Senior Trevor Releford scored a game-high 17 points, his 10th double-figure scoring outing in as many games,

XavierUA_0004Alabama travel to California for a Pac-10 / SEC matchup against the UCLA Bruins on Dec. 28. The Bruins are nationally-ranked and the game will be on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. CT (7 p.m. PT)

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