Dec 21, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant gestures during the first half against the Xavier Musketeers at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Surrenders Big Lead, Loses to Xavier 77-74

For the second time in as many games the Alabama Crimson Tide (5-6) had numerous opportunities to seal the deal, but couldn’t find a way to put the Xavier Musketeers (9-3) away in the second half.

The Crimson Tide controlled the game for much of the first half and early in the second half. Alabama limited the Musketeers to only 26 points in the first half, taking a 33-26 lead into halftime.

Alabama guard Trevor Releford led the Tide in scoring with 17 points including a couple late free throws and a 3-pointer to keep the game close. Releford also added 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Freshman forward Shannon Hale had a big night coming off the bench. He finished with 14 points including an impressive 3-5 performance from outside. Hale’s 14-point performance surpasses his former career high of 8 points against Georgia State. Levi Randolph also finished in double figures with 13 points on 3-5 shooting.

Xavier forwards Isaiah Philmore and Matt Stainbrook led the way for the Musketeers with 17 points each. Junior guard Dee Davis added 12 points and sophomore guard Myles Davis added 10 points off the bench.

Both teams struggled with foul trouble down the stretch especially with their big men. Alabama’s Carl Engstrom fouled out late in the game and Nick Jacobs saw limited action in the second half after picking up is fourth foul midway through the final half. Xavier’s Isaiah Philmore and Matt Stainbrook both managed to play with four fouls for the last several minutes of the second half without fouling out.

The Tide jumped out to a 12-point lead early in the second half, but the offense stalled allowing Xavier to erase the deficit and take control of the game. Alabama’s offensive drought lasted just over nine minutes. During that stretch Xavier didn’t allow the Tide to score a single field goal. Although Alabama did get some help from the free throw line, the Tide’s inability to score ultimately cost them the game.

For the second straight game, Alabama seemingly had a big win within its sights but simply couldn’t execute in the waining moments of the game. This has been a major issue all season long.

As discussed before, this game was essentially a must-win for the Tide. Although Alabama still has UCLA remaining on the schedule, one good conference win isn’t going to cut it. The Tide had all the opportunities to have a great non-conference season this year, but that dream is all but gone.

Alabama will look to rebound after a short break for the Christmas holidays. The Tide will travel to Los Angeles to face the UCLA Bruins (9-2) on December 28. The Bruins are a perfect 9-0 at home and will be looking to end their non-conference season on a high note against Alabama. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 pm CT. Television coverage will be provided by ESPN2 and WatchESPN. As always, radio coverage will be provided by your local CTSN affiliate.

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