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November 8, 2011

Xavier's Holloway hopes numbers add up

Tu Holloway talks about statistics and numbers more than most college players.

But he isn't consumed with points per game. He's looking at his assist-to-turnover ratio, his rebounds, assists, free-throw attempts, free-throw percentage, shooting from the field. And he's examining his performance in those areas over time.

For example, he knows his assist-to-turnover ratio dropped from 2-to-1 in his sophomore season to 1.6-to-1 last season as a junior.

"When you're working, you've got to be conscious of your numbers," Holloway said. "The main part is winning and being a good teammate, but it's natural that during a game we may look at the [statistics]. I may not look at points, but I always challenge myself in rebounds and assists. I'm pretty conscious of what's going on during the game.

"You have to look at numbers sometimes to know you're improving. That's how I challenge myself."

Imagine, then, what Holloway must have felt when he looked at the numbers from Xavier's NCAA tournament loss to Marquette. Sixth-seeded Xavier fell 66-55 to 11th-seeded Marquette, and Holloway was invisible for most of the game. He was scoreless for nearly 28 minutes before finishing with a mere five points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field. As Holloway says, he looks at more than just scoring numbers. The ancillary stats were just as bad - two rebounds, five assists and five turnovers.

"At the biggest time, one of the biggest games in my life, I played one of my worst games," Holloway said. "That's not supposed to happen."

[Huguenin: Projecting the 68-team NCAA field]

Immediately after the game, Holloway was as shocked as anyone. At the post-game interviews, he was crouched over with his shoulders slumped. The team was riding on those shoulders, he said, and he let them down.

His malaise didn't end in the locker room or even during the trip from Cleveland back to campus in Cincinnati. It lingered for four or five months, Xavier coach Chris Mack said.

"He's always been an introverted kid, but he really went into a shell," Mack said. "He wasn't the smiling, cracking-jokes guy you may see in the offices. He was down. That was sort of a reflective mood of the entire team, but he was at the forefront of that."

The loss wasn't all on Holloway. Marquette was the last team from the Big East to make the field, but the Warriors also upset Syracuse in the next round to reach the Sweet 16. Marquette also was a bad matchup for Xavier. The Golden Eagles were an undersized, quick team, which didn't play into Xavier's ability to spread defenses.

[Megargee: Schools with the best sophomore, junior and senior classes]

Xavier played with a short bench all season, so when guard Mark Lyons, the Musketeers' second-leading scorer, was benched with foul trouble, even more responsibility fell to Holloway.

"Tu tried to do too much," Mack said. "That's something we talked about and watched tape on. As we stretch our roster with more available players this year, the onus is going to be on him to trust his teammates a little more."

The Musketeers figure to have a deeper team this season even without starters Dante Jackson and Jamel McLean. Xavier adds two transfers, Travis Taylor from Monmouth and Andre Walker from Vanderbilt, along with top-100 freshmen Justin Martin and Dez Wells. Xavier's top frontcourt player, senior Kenny Frease, also returns after a short-lived suspension at the start of practice.

by the numbers
Xavier guard Tu Holloway is the reigning Atlantic 10 player of the year and was a third-team All-America selection last season. Here's how he stacked up in the Atlantic 10.
Holloway's statisticsA-10 rank
19.7 points per game2nd
5.4 assists per game1st
270 free throw attempts1st
235 free throws made1st
87 percent free-throw shooting2nd
1.7 steals per game9th
38.4 minutes per game2nd
Joining Holloway and Lyons in the backcourt will be Brad Redford, a 3-point specialist who missed last season with a torn ACL. Redford still is working his way back from injury, but Holloway expects him to free up the other guards.

[2011-12 preview: All Rivals.com stories, and more]

"Brad changes the whole game," Holloway said. "You could tell as a freshman and sophomore even when he wasn't playing a whole lot of minutes. With Brad on the court, it gives us so much more space and room because you have to pay so much attention to Brad because he's such a good shooter."

Holloway spent the summer taking 20,000 jump shots and went to handful of camps. He perhaps worked too much. Holloway will miss Friday's opener against Morgan State while sitting out with a suspension because of an NCAA secondary violation. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Holloway played in two summer basketball leagues when NCAA rules allow players to participate in only one.

The single-game suspension might be a good lesson in Holloway learning to trust is teammates. After all, he won't be able to take control himself.

When the time comes, though, Holloway is seeking his chance to lead and perhaps redeem himself from his poor performance at the end of last season.

"I like the pressure of having everything on my shoulders," Holloway said. "That's how my game is.

"I want things to be on my back so I can perform the best I can."

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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