November 25, 2015

Xavier didn't impress in its first game of the season as a ranked team, and the Musketeers knew exactly why.

They'll get another chance to solidify their spot in the poll when they face well-rested Alabama on Thursday in the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Florida.

Xavier (4-0) delivered lopsided victories over Missouri and Michigan to climb into the Top 25 at No. 23 this week, but wasn't crisp in a 78-66 home win over 1-3 Northern Kentucky on Monday.

''The whole 40 minutes, that was frustrating,'' coach Chris Mack said. ''Our energy level and effort was completely unacceptable. That was embarrassing.''

His players agreed, acknowledging that their 86-70 road win over the Wolverines on Friday and long-awaited return to the rankings went to their heads.

''I honestly can't sit here and tell you we did anything well,'' senior Myles Davis said. ''They played harder than us. We weren't ready to play. We didn't look like we were coming off a win. We didn't look like we moved into the Top 25.''

Depth and balance were enough for Xavier to stay unbeaten Monday, as six Musketeers scored in double figures. Trevon Bluiett had 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds while James Farr added 13 points and eight boards.

Xavier, though, shot 39.0 percent and went 6 of 20 from 3-point range.

''To come out and show the effort we did today is mind-boggling,'' Farr said.

With their spot in the poll possibly in jeopardy, it seems doubtful the Musketeers will make the same mistake against Alabama (2-1). The Crimson Tide have been off since Friday when they defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 105-93 at home.

Shannon Hale, Riley Norris and Justin Coleman scored 18 points apiece to help Alabama bounce back from an 80-48 loss at Dayton on Nov. 17 - its worst defeat since a 78-51 rout by Florida on March 1, 2011.

''For us to come and score over 100 points after struggling so much on the road, that says a lot about the mental toughness of our young team,'' coach Avery Johnson said.

Retin Obasohan rebounded from a seven-point performance against the Flyers by scoring 17, going 4 of 5 from 3-point range before fouling out. The senior guard scored 18 in the season opener against Kennesaw State on Nov. 13.

A Norris free throw put Alabama over 100 points for the first time against a Division I opponent in 10 years. It hadn't reached 100 in any game since Nov. 18, 2013.

''In the last few practices, Coach has really implied we need to make more free throws and we've practicing a whole lot, so I just got out there, kind of concentrate,'' Norris said. ''You know, I could hear the fans kind of rumbling in the background, but just concentration.''

Getting to the line is a strength of Xavier's, as it averages more than 30 free throws and went 26 of 34 on Monday.

The Musketeers have also outrebounded opponents by nearly 15 per game and are averaging 43.5, while Alabama is grabbing just 34.7.

The Musketeers have defeated the Tide in each of the last two seasons, winning 97-84 on Dec. 6.

The stacked eight-team field in Orlando includes 17th-ranked Notre Dame, No. 20 Wichita State and fellow unbeatens Iowa, Dayton and USC. The winner of this game faces the Trojans or Shockers in the semifinals Friday.

You May Like