Saturday, December 3, 2011

Stop me if you've heard this before: Tu comes thru in the clutch

There isn't a player in the country that I want taking a big shot over Tu Holloway.

Not a single one. And if you disagree with me, than you haven't been paying attention.

On Saturday afternoon, Holloway hit three straight three pointers and two free throws in the final two minutes as Xavier stormed back from a 19 point deficit with less than ten minutes left to knock off Purdue 66-63 at the Cintas Center on Saturday afternoon. Holloway finished with 21 points, meaning that he did more damage in the final two minutes than he did in the first 38 against the Boilermakers.

Purdue was in complete control of this game. They held Xavier to 22 first half points, forcing 18 turnovers in the process and putting forth the kind of defensive effort that we have come to expect from a Matt Painter-coached team. That surge continued early in the second half, culminating in a Ryne Smith three that put Purdue up 55-36 at the ten minute mark.

But that is when things started to change. Xavier used a 13-4 run to cut the lead to ten with six minutes left when the Musketeers got their biggest spark -- a cramping Robbie Hummel.

With Hummel rendered ineffective -- the images of him lying prone on the sideline with tears in his eyes from the amount of pain that he was in from "full-body cramps" were gut-wrenching -- Xavier took over. Holloway hit two free throws, Andre Walker hit a layup and Kenny Frease knocked down two free throws as Xavier got within five.

And then it was time for Holloway to shine.

He hit threes on three straight possessions, the second giving Xavier their first lead since 2-0 and the third breaking a 61-all tie with 45 seconds left. After the two teams traded free throws, Purdue missed two pretty good looks at a three to tie as time expired.

This game comes of the heels of Holloway knocking down back-to-back threes -- in a game that he was shooting 4-18 from the floor before the final minutes -- in overtime after Xavier came back from 10 down to beat Vanderbilt on the road.

Like I said, if this is a surprise to you, than you haven't been paying attention. He's been doing this since his name was still Terrell. In the first game of his college career, Holloway hit ten straight free throws down the stretch to knock off Missouri. And what about the big shots that he hit against Kansas State in the best game of the 2010 NCAA Tournament?

With the game on the line, no one in the country is better than Tu.

What We Learned


- The Boilermakers are still capable of playing the kind of defense that made them one of the best teams in the country the last three years. The way the end played out was disappointing -- and partly caused by the body of Robbie Hummel failing him yet again -- but for thirty minutes, the Boilermakers beat down Xavier on their own floor. That's worth something.

- The defense may be there, but Purdue is still missing something on the offensive end of the floor. Right now, Lewis Jackson is their secondary offensive option, and while I've been a fan of Jackson throughout his career, if he is your No. 2 option offensively, your team is in trouble. He can penetrate and he can create, but his poor jump shooting ability limits his offensive prowess. Someone needs to step up and become a bigger offensive threat. Kelsey Barlow, Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson, anyone really.


- Xavier is more than just Tu Holloway. Mark Lyons finished with 14 points on eight shots. Kenny Frease and Andre Walker both added 10 points. Dezmine Wells, Brad Redford, Travis Taylor. Chris Mack has a number of weapons at his disposal.

- When they don't turn the ball over, Xavier has the ability to be a dangerous offensive team. The shot 53.7% from the floor. They hit six threes. They got to the line 27 times and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds. And while their 1.08 PPP number isn't all that impressive, the 1.69 PPP that they posted on possessions in which they didn't actually turn the ball over gives you an idea of what they can do.

- There really isn't a huge difference between Xavier and Vanderbilt or Xavier and Purdue in terms of talent. The difference is in how they execute in crunch time. Vanderbilt doesn't have a closer, Xavier does. Purdue usually has Robbie Hummel, but they didn't on Saturday. A player that can hit tough shots in big moments is the difference-maker when it comes to teams that have essentially equal levels of talent.

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