Holloway embraces game-winning moment

GREENSBORO, N.C. – With his team trailing by as many as 10 points in the second half, Xavier guard Tu Holloway had one thought: “If it comes down to one of us winning this game on a shot, I’m going to win this game for us.”

It did.

And he did.

With 21.3 seconds left Friday night, Holloway banked in the go-ahead field goal to beat seventh-seeded Notre Dame 67-63 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Xavier, the No. 10 seed in the South, will play No. 15 seed Lehigh at Greensboro Coliseum on Sunday.

“My best game ever? I could say most important game ever,’’ Holloway said.

He played like it.

During a postseason in which his team is still trying to erase the memories of a reputation-shrinking December brawl on its home floor against crosstown rival Cincinnati, the senior seemed determined not to let it end early.

Trailing 48-38 in the second half, Holloway capped a 13-3 Xavier run with a jumper to knot the score at 51-all. Counting that bucket, Holloway scored eight of his team’s next 10 points, taking back the lead 59-58 with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left when he stole the ball and scored at the other end.

The teams traded the lead after that. And even after Holloway’s bank shot, which gave his team a 64-63 lead, Notre Dame had a chance to tie it.

But with 2.8 seconds left, as Irish guard Eric Atkins hit the front end of a one-and-one, teammate Jerian Grant was called for a lane violation when he left his position behind the 3-point arc too early as he ran in for a rebound.

Mike Stuart, a member of the three-man officiating crew that worked the game, said in a prepared statement about the call: “The rule is that anyone outside the 3-point arc is under the same restrictions as the free throw shooter. They cannot penetrate the arc until the ball hits the rim, in which case No. 22 [Grant] was clearly way down in the lane before the ball ever hit. It’s an obvious violation, by the rule.”

The whistle gave the ball back to Xavier, and Dezmine Wells buried two game-sealing free throws after Notre Dame guard Pat Connaughton was whistled for an intentional foul.

Holloway finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting.

“The moment’s never too big for him,’’ Xavier coach Chris Mack said of Holloway. “… That’s who he is, he’s extremely courageous. He’s never one to let somebody else take over. He doesn’t do it selfishly; he just has a huge belief in himself. And his teammates do, and his coach.”