Coming off a dominating 64-47 victory over crosstown rival Cincinnati, Xavier has another opportunity to earn a resume-building win at Alabama on Saturday, December 21st. The Crimson Tide sit at a mediocre 5-5 and have yet to beat a team in the top 100 of the RPI, yet may provide some match-up problems for Xavier.
Alabama ranks 7th in the country in 3-point field goal defense, holding opponents to 25.7% behind the line. Limiting opponents from deep has been a staple under current coach Anthony Grant, as the Crimson Tide have finished the year ranked in the top 75 of 3-point field goal defense in each of Grant’s four years in Tuscaloosa. Xavier enters the contest hitting 40.8% of their 3-point attempts, good for 28th in the country. However, in the Musketeers’ three losses this season, they have only made 17 of 55 (30.9%) shots from behind the arc.
Guard Semaj Christon leads Xavier with 15.5 points per game, but excels in penetration, rather than perimeter shooting. The bulk of the three-point production comes from Juniors Justin Martin and Dee Davis, and Freshman Myles Davis. The younger Davis is a 3-point specialist, as 55 of his 67 field goal attempts have come from behind the arc, having converted at a clip of 47.3% from downtown. A key to the game will be Justin Martin’s shooting; the inconsistent small forward is coming off a career high 17 points against Cincinnati in an outing that included three 3-pointers.
Another strength of Alabama’s defense is the ability to create turnovers; their starting guard combo of Retin Obasohan and Trevor Releford average 2.9 and 2.1 steals, respectively, this season. Xavier has committed more than 15 turnovers in two of their three losses, and is coming off a season-high 20 turnover outing in the win vs. Cincinnati. If the Alabama duo can force live ball turnovers against Xavier’s young backcourt, the Crimson Tide will have transition opportunities in what should be a low scoring, half-court game.
The trip to Tuscaloosa is Xavier’s only non-conference road contest, and a win would serve well on the NCAA tournament resume that currently includes only one victory away from the Cintas Center. The Musketeers have won 5 of their last 6 road contests again SEC opponents, and will benefit from a more subdued crowd with students on semester break. If Xavier can shoot better than 35% from downtown while committing less than 12 turnovers, they will have a great chance to come away with a victory in SEC country once again.