Just a sophomore, Terrell Holloway’s play in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament has bolstered his reputation as a clutch player. His performance against Richmond last month certainly didn’t hurt, either.
With a trip to the title game on the line, Holloway and the 24th-ranked Musketeers face another big contest against the Spiders, this time at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., on Saturday.
An eight-game winning streak has second-seeded Xavier (24-7) in the semifinals for the eighth straight season. The win streak has given the Musketeers an extra boost of confidence at an ideal time, with their 78-76 double-overtime win over then-No. 23 Richmond on Feb. 28 ranking as one of their biggest victories of the season.
The following day, Xavier joined the Top 25 for the first time this season while Richmond (25-7) dropped out.
Holloway was outstanding down the stretch as the Musketeers won for the seventh time in their last eight meetings with the Spiders. He scored seven of his 24 points during the second OT, falling two shy of matching his career high.
If not for another timely performance from Holloway, Xavier’s bid for its first conference title since 2006 might have ended Friday night.
Holloway hit a go-ahead three-point play with 1:22 to play as the Musketeers rallied from a 15-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to beat Dayton 78-73 in the quarterfinals. He made two free throws to push the lead to four points with 33.6 seconds remaining, added two more with 32.4 seconds to go and the score was never close again.
“The worst thing you can do is stop fighting and give up,” Xavier forward Jason Love said.
Holloway finished with a team-high 22 points and three steals. Fellow sophomore guard Jordan Crawford added 20 points.
Crawford has scored 20 or more in eight of his last 11 games. He had 19 points in last month’s matchup with the Spiders.
Richmond shot just 41.1 percent (30 for 73) in that contest. David Gonzalez led the Spiders with 18 points, nine rebounds and five steals.
Gonzalez helped third-seeded Richmond advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2004 on Friday, posting a team-high 15 points in a 77-72 win over Massachusetts.
It was the 11th victory in 12 games for Richmond, which made 11 3-pointers. The Spiders are shooting 41.5 percent (49 for 118) from beyond the arc over their last five games.
“That always makes things easy,” coach Chris Mooney said.
After losing at Xavier, Mooney is hoping a change of venue will produce a different result. Richmond is 4-0 on neutral courts this season.
“We are looking forward to the rematch because at the end of the regulation it was a dead heat,” Mooney said. “I know they’ll be ready. I know they’ll be prepared. I know they’re a great program. We’re just pleased to be able to advance and try to play Xavier again.”
The winner faces Temple or Rhode Island in the title game Sunday.
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