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Tu Holloway’s costly missed free throw

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Xavier v Baylor

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 23: Tu Holloway #52 of the Xavier Musketeers prepares for their game against the Baylor Bears during the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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Tu Holloway has deservedly earned himself a reputation as one of the most clutch players in the country.

And rightfully so.

He made a name for himself as a freshman by hitting a number of clutch free throws as the Musketeers ran through the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament. Since then, he’s seemingly made every big shot he’s taken, capped by the game-winning runner off the glass against Notre Dame in the opening round of this tournament. The kid is a cold-blooded killer late in a game.

And after a 75-70 loss to No. 3 Baylor, that fact will probably still be true, but it won’t change the fact that in his final game as a collegian, Holloway missed a shot in the final minutes that really hurt his team’s chance to win.

Down 12 with a minute and a half left in the game, Tu Holloway drove and drew a foul, completing the three-point play. On the ensuing possession, Baylor turned the ball over and Justin Martin buried a three, cutting Baylor’s lead to 69-63 with 1:22 left. After getting a stop, Holloway drew a foul against Deuce Bello with just 33 seconds left and headed to the line.

He would miss the front end of a one-and-one, and Xavier immediately fouled Baylor’s Quincy Acy. Holloway wouldn’t move from the line for a good five or ten seconds, bending at the waist and staring at the floor as he grabbed his knees. He may never have left the free throw live if he would have known that, after a pair of free throws from Acy, Holloway would score seven points in the span of 15 seconds to get within three points.

If that isn’t a microcosm of the season Xavier just experienced, than I don’t know what is.

Holloway had a terrific career as a Musketeer. He played a major role in three different trips to the Sweet 16, including this season, when Xavier’s season looked to be over after their brawl with Cincinnati.

But knowing how competitive he is, I have a feeling that this missed free throw is going to haunt him for a long time. And that’s a shame, because Holloway was as good as anyone in the country during his time at the collegiate level.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.