GAME NOTES: The Xavier Musketeers will attempt to win their fourth straight game on Saturday night, as they head to Coleman Coliseum for a non-conference clash with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Xavier most recently downed cross-town rival Cincinnati on a neutral court last Saturday, 64-47, to give it three straight wins on the heels of a three- game losing streak at the Battle 4 Atlantis in late November. This will mark the first true road game for the Musketeers.
Alabama hosted nationally-ranked Wichita State on Tuesday night and suffered a hard-fought 72-67 setback. It was the Tide's first loss of the season at Coleman Coliseum in five tries, and their home success is the only reason they are sitting at .500 (5-5) considering they are a combined 0-4 in road and neutral-court contests.
Alabama holds a 3-2 lead in the all-time series with Xavier, including a win in the most recent matchup in the championship game of the 2006 Paradise Jam, 63-56.
The Musketeers dominated Cincinnati in their latest game by shooting 56.4 percent from the field, including 11-of-16 from the field, while holding the Bearcats to just 33.3 percent shooting overall. The hot shooting performance was able to successfully mask a game-high 20 turnovers. Justin Martin was the top scorer with 17 points on 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free- throw line. James Farr connected on all four of his field goal attempts for 10 points off the bench, while Matt Stainbrook added 11 points and four steals to the winning effort.
Xavier has gotten used to these types of well-rounded performances this season, as it boasts positive scoring (+10.3) and rebounding (+5.8) margins while owning great percentages from the field (.483) and 3-point range (.401). Semaj Christon is the catalyst with 15.5 points per game, although he hasn't been especially sharp from the foul line (.600). No one else registers in double figures on a nightly basis, but the deep squad has five others netting between 8.2 and 9.7 points per game, including Stainbrook, who's a strong presence in the paint (8.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg).
The Tide appeared in line for an upset earlier in the week when they led Wichita State by three with under seven minutes to play, but they could not contain the Shockers down the stretch as they suffered their first home loss of the season. They shot a solid 43.4 percent from the field on the night, but they lost out on several possessions by losing the rebounding battle, 38-26. Trevor Releford did more than his share, scoring 22 points on 7-of-15 from the field, including 3-of-8 from 3-point range, while also handing out six assists. Rodney Cooper impressed off the bench with 14 points.
Even though Alabama is just .500 on the season, it still boasts positive margins in terms of scoring (+8.0), rebounding (+2.0) and turnovers (+1.9) while outshooting its opponents from the field, 45.6 percent to 40.7 percent. Releford leads the way with 17.0 points per game, doing so on high efficiency from the field (.486), 3-point range (.385) and the foul line (.935). Retin Obasohan (14.5 ppg) is an elite perimeter defender with 2.9 steals per game, while Nick Jacobs brings 10.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game to the table.
Alabama proved in going wire-to-wire with undefeated Wichita State in its latest game that it can compete with anyone at Coleman Coliseum. While Xavier has impressed for the most part this season, it has not been tested on the road. The Tide's combination of strong guard play and impressive defense will be enough to lift them to victory in this one.
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