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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Breaking down Holloway leads to Marquette baffling Xavier


CLEVELAND -- Buzz Williams was asked about Xavier star Tu Holloway in the pregame press conference.

Take a breath and read what the Marquette coach said.

"Their team scores 25 percent of their points from the free-throw line, which is a staggering number. But Tu Holloway in and of himself scores 25 percent of his points from the free-throw line. So he's the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, scores 25 percent of his points from the free-throw line, and 63 percent of the points he scores come off of ball screens. Now intertwine that relative to their team. As a team they score eight percent on put-backs -- a lot of that is No. 22 [Jamel McLean]. They score 11 percent in transition -- that's all 52 [Holloway] and 10 [Mark Lyons]. Those are solid numbers -- 25 percent as a team from the free-throw line is outstanding, in the top five of the country. So [all] that constitutes 44 percent of their points. Then [another] 42 percent of their points as a team come from the ball screen, and from only the two guys involved in the ball screen. ... Only the two guys involved in the ball screen constitute 42 percent of Xavier's points, and of that 42 percent Tu Holloway is involved in it 63 percent of the time, and it's really dangerous because he does such an effective job of using the ball screen that he forces help. And a lot of times when he forces help he gets fouled, but he also puts your team in constant rotation because of the ball screen and the coverage of the ball screen. They set multiple ball screens per possession. So Tu Holloway literally may in one possession get three ball screens by three different players. And I don't study any other teams other than the ones we play, but I would say that he probably gets more ball screens than any player in the country, and I'm not sure he wouldn't be deemed the most effective from those ball screens."

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(Still with me?)

The point of running that answer at that length -- and I didn't run the entire answer, by the way -- wasn't to get your head spinning but to show how much time Holloway spent inside Williams' head in advance of Friday's NCAA tournament opener. The All-American guard was broken down every way imaginable to the point where Williams -- who said he watched Xavier's past 14 games in reverse order -- could sit on a stage here at Quicken Loans Arena and cite statistics about Holloway I'm certain Holloway couldn't cite himself.

It was mesmerizing and weird.

But the preparation paid off Friday.

"Tu was the whole scouting report," Marquette's Dwight Buycks said. "He was everything."

And held to almost nothing.

That was the story from Marquette's 66-55 win over Xavier.

Holloway took eight shots and made only one.

He finished with five points.

He averages 20.

"I don't know [what happened]," Holloway said. "I really couldn't figure it out."

Which is mostly why Xavier couldn't figure out Marquette or rally after falling behind 33-20 at the half. Holloway didn't score until he sank a 3-pointer with 12:13 remaining that cut the lead to 47-36. That was his first and last field goal. The Musketeers never got closer than nine points again.

Now back to Williams and that pregame press conference.

Remember all the talk about Holloway and how dangerous he is with ball screens?

If not, go read Williams' pregame quote again.

Then read what Xavier coach Chris Mack said late Friday after the game.

"The primary defender on [Holloway] a lot of times isn't as relevant as the ball screen defender, and I thought that's where Marquette did a better job than the majority of the teams we played this year of making him give it up, not allowing him to split the ball screen, reject the ball screen, all the things that we've worked on, he's worked on extremely hard this season," Mack said. "I give a lot of credit to those guys for the type of defense they were able to play against us in the half court."

Translation: Williams watched film and developed a brilliant game plan to stop Holloway, then his players went out and executed it perfectly. The result was an unusually bad night for Xavier's best player and an incredibly satisfying one for Marquette's coach, whose head full of numbers now has the Golden Eagles just a win away from the Sweet 16.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

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