As last night’s game started to wane, Joel pled on Twitter for Trevon Bluiett to get on his Tu Holloway stuff. Therein lay the great blessing of Xavier teams since 2008, a ready made late game killer lying in wait. It began with Tu Holloway and, with a bridge ably provided by Semaj Christon, passed on to Trevon Bluiett. When the game winds down and other teams look for an open look for someone, Xavier fans have had the luxury of knowing who would have the ball and, likely, deliver the knockout blow.
Clutch isn’t just splashing a big shot, though, it’s everything that goes along with it. Sometimes, that means throwing your team on your back for an entire game if need be, or keying a massive comeback even if you aren’t the one to cap it. Coming up big when it matters is only part of the entire picture. Xavier has had two guys capable of getting the job done recently. This is the internet age though, which means someone has to come out on top.
You can't go wrong with either, but the best clutch Xavier player of the metrics era is:— Banners on the Parkway of Class (@BannersParkway) February 7, 2018
Is impressive, but you would kind of expect that. Scroll up to the top of this page. That’s Tu fading away from alleged imposing shot blocker Jack Cooley to finish off Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament. In that game Tu went for 25/2/2 with an EFG% of 73%. That was Tu’s senior year, but he got started well before that. In a five point win over Memphis in just the fifth game he played for the Musketeers, he went 10-10 from the line and iced the game down the stretch as the Tigers dared the freshman to beat them.
The next season, Tu began to come into his own as a starter and a killer. The next year it was Jason Love that scored the last two buckets of a double overtime Crosstown Shootout, but it was Tu who scored 26, went 11-11 from the line, and found Love for the game winning bucket. Later that year, Tu scored seven in double overtime to beat Richmond and take first place in the A10. In the immortal K-State game, Tu went for 26.
The next year, Tu was the leader of the team. The comforting blanket of Jordan Crawford was gone. It should have been a year of difficulty, but the guard from Hempstead simply went to another level. Against Seton Hall in the Virgin Islands, he scored 31 of Xavier’s 57 in a win. (Xavier got nine minutes from Jay Canty and Griffin McKenzie that game). Two games later, Tu had 28 and played 51 minutes in beating Wofford in triple OT. Tu then went on a roll, eviscerating Richmond, recording two triple-doubles, and beating Dayton with seven straight points to close the game at the UD Arena.
In his senior season, Tu became head-shakingly clutch. Against Vanderbilt he hit back to back threes to win it. Against Purdue he scored 11 points in the final two minutes to cap off a 19 point comeback. The Vandy game, by the way, was on the road. In a brilliant game against Dayton he scored to force Dayton into overtime and then hit a 360 degree three pointer directly in the face of Kevin Dillard to win the game. (That’s not a typo, new fans, he literally spun all the way around into a game winning three). Against Charlotte he led a comeback with ten in the final five minutes and again hit the game winning three.
Then came that Notre Dame fallaway and 21/2/2 against Lehigh in the NCAA tournament. Even in Xavier’s final defeat to Baylor, Tu scored seven points in 15 seconds to nearly drag Xavier into the Elite Eight. It was a fitting cap for one of the greatest players to ever wear the uniform.
You wanted Tu to have the ball late in a game not simply because he could shoot the three and was fearless in the lane, but because he was nails from the line. For his career he shot 85% from the charity stripe. Where Trevon thrives off the ball and off screens, Tu was the point guard of every team he played on. The ball was always in his hands, he always soaked up the pressure, and, more often than not, he had to create his own shot. It’s hard to imagine Xavier having a better big game player.
Tre arrived on teams already in the Big East. Where Tu Holloway had to win games with Griffin McKenzie, Tre’s first game in the Big East slotted him in next to Myles Davis, Jalen Reynolds, James Farr, Remy Abell, Matt Stainbrook, Dee Davis, and JP Macura. Even with all that talent around him though, Tre still iced the biggest game of the year, stepping to the line and burying two free throws to beat UC in the Crosstown Shootout.
Tre’s resume is more of brute force scoring than it is late game heroics, at least early on. His sophomore season he scored 15 points per game on a team that secured a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Last season, he averaged 18.5 points, but also began to throw in a staggering amount of game winning shots. At home and off one leg against Seton Hall he stuck a jumper, still hobbling just three days later, he played every minute and scored 16 against Creighton in another two point game.
In the Big East tournament, Tre took off. 17 against DePaul was followed by 23 against Butler in a must win game for Xavier that he iced late. In the NCAA tournament, all he did was go for 21, 29, and 25 before running out of gas against Gonzaga. While not packed with clutch shots, it was arguably the best three game performance of any player in Xavier history considering the stakes.
This season alone Tre has hit game deciders against ETSU, Georgetown, Wisconsin, and Butler. Listing them like that seems to shrink it a bit, but that’s four games where Bluiett has either literally hit the game winner, or hit the shot that ended the game as a contest. That’s far more than many players will make in a career.
Tre benefits from running off the ball, but there’s no question he wants it when it comes winning time. He does with one shot what Tu did with entire games of brutal efficiency, defeats the opponent and then swaggers off the other way, smirkingly content with the work he has done.