Remember the days of an Anthony Grant coached team having a final score of around 59-54? Well, it seems like those times are gone. The offense managed an efficient 84 points, but gave up 97 to a very powerful Xavier attack (who could have scored well over 100 if they had wanted). Xavier knifed through Bama's defense, who put up about as much resistance as a cube of Jell-o. It was an extremely physical game, laden with a whole bunch of fouls, and guys fighting over the ball and sliding all over the court.
The first six and a half minutes of the game we're unviewable, as the Penn State-Marshall game went a little long. When the game finally ended and CBS moved over, Alabama was leading 10-5. It should have stayed away. Xavier instantly went on a 12-2 run, and never really looked back. Alabama had some major issues this half with extremely lazy passes getting stolen and returned to the other end of the court. About the only thing the kept the game as close as it was (which still wasn't close) was the fact that Xavier fouled incessantly, and the Tide got into the double bonus early. The half ended with Xavier leading 41-30, and Alabama's leading scorer on the season, Levi Randolph, had not even attempted to take a shot.
Xavier came out flat in the second half, and Shannon Hale drilled a nice big-guy-three-pointer. Randolph finally started to get involved and hit his first shot of the game with 17:19 left in the half. Alabama looked like they might slowly chip their way back into the game, but then Xavier got tired of toying with the Tide. Led by Myles Davis's 18 points (12 of which were from three pointers), Xavier pulled away from the Tide, leading by over 20 points a few times. Every player on the Musketeers could seemingly score at will from any place on the court, and 43 of their points actually came from the bench.
Ricky Tarrant had a valiant second half effort, and finished the game with 23 points and hitting four 3-pointers along the way. He also had a beautiful ally-oop off the backboard to Shannon Hale, and a couple of Trevor Releford-esque drives. He and fellow transfer Michael Kessens, with 9 points, continue to look like great additions for Anthony Grant, and both continue to accrue more and more playing time. Shannon Hale made 12 points, but dealt with foul trouble all game, and fouled out, along with Jimmie Taylor. After his first half disappearing act, Randolph put together a solid (though mostly pointless) ending, making some really tough shots in traffic to finish the game with 15 points. He only missed two shots, and one was blocked before the ball ever left his hands.
It was a disheartening loss, and the first time this year that the team didn't feel like the chemistry was all there. Even though the final score showed a great offensive game, most of that came from individual efforts and three pointers (43.5% and 30 points from behind the arc). The Tides passes were awful all game long. Defensively, it was possibly the worst I have ever seen under an Anthony Grant coached team. The defense just stood there like spectators all game, and Xavier scored at will. This team still seems more talented than the previous few years, and Xavier is a perennial NCAA tournament team. However, they better use this game as an early season gut check, and hopefully Anthony Grant will use it as a teaching point and a reminder that the team still has to play defense.
On a more positive note, how about that football team?
Roll Tide guys.