Hoyas break out of funk

Free­man, Wright snap shoot­ing slumps as Hoyas end 3-game skid

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY TARIK EL-BASHIR el­bashirt@wash­post.com

Austin Free­man, right, and Chris Wright end droughts as Ge­orge­town tops Rut­gers, 74-65, to snap its three-game skid.

PISCATAWAY, n.j. — A pair of Ge­orge­town slumps came to an em­phatic con­clu­sion Satur­day af­ter­noon at Louis Brown Ath­letic Cen­ter, and there’s no doubt that the end of one skid was di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the end of the other.

Se­nior guard Austin Free­man scored 25 points and the Hoyas snapped out of a three-game funk with a 74-65 win over Rut­gers. It was Free­man’s high­est point to­tal in 11 games and his best shoot­ing per­for­mance in two weeks.

“When I’m mak­ing shots,” Free­man said, “our team is play­ing well.”

Free­man, who had av­er­aged 9.7 points dur­ing the los­ing streak, scored 18 of his game-high to­tal in the sec­ond half and knocked down four of his six three-point at­tempts, in­clud­ing a game-changer from long range with less than 10 min­utes re­main­ing. He also grabbed a ca­reer-high nine re­bounds and played with an in­fec­tious en­ergy that had been lack­ing re­cently.

What was more en­cour­ag­ing for the Hoyas, though, was that Free­man wasn’t the only guard to re­dis­cover his shoot­ing touch against the Scar­let Knights. Chris Wright made 5 of 9 shots from the field and fin­ished with 15 points, the point guard’s high­est to­tal in four games. He also made three of his five three-point at­tempts, match­ing his to­tal from the pre­vi­ous five games. Over­all, Ge­orge­town (13-5, 2-4 Big East) made 11 of 22 three-point shots and im­proved to 12-0 when mak­ing at least 33.3 per­cent of their at­tempts from long range.

“It’s re­lated,” Coach John Thomp­son III said when asked about get­ting the win and see­ing his se­nior cap­tains put an end to their shoot­ing slumps. “It’s re­ally good to have these two guys back. We need these guys. With the way this team is put to­gether, Chris, Austin and Ja­son [Clark] have to play well. We can’t go through a stretch where all of them are slightly out of sync.”

When Thomp­son was asked whether the cold shoot­ing the past two weeks had shaken his key scor­ers’ con­fi­dence, Wright jumped in and shook his head: “No,” he said with a dis­gusted look.

“It was nice, you know?” Wright said. “It was good to fi­nally make shots. We got in a good rhythm shoot­ing the ball. [But] con­fi­dence-wise, no one ever lost con­fi­dence. I might have shot seven threes last game. I wasn’t mak­ing them, but I was shoot­ing them. So I don’t think my con­fi­dence lacked, or Free’s con­fi­dence lacked or Ja­son’s con­fi­dence lacked. We just weren’t putting the ball in the bas­ket, which hap­pens.”

While con­fi­dence might not have de­serted them, the swag­ger with which Free­man had played the first two months of the sea­son cer­tainly had been ab­sent.

Un­til 9 min­utes 40 sec­onds were left on the clock, that is.

James Beatty had just capped an 8-0 Rut­gers run with a three­p­ointer that trimmed the Hoyas’ lead to 47-43 and be­gan waiv­ing his arms up and down in an at­tempt to get the 7,122 fans in­side the no­to­ri­ously rau­cous arena riled up.

“ That’s life in the Big East: Teams are go­ing to make runs on their home court,” Thomp­son said. “It was just a ques­tion of us, at that point, fo­cus­ing on ex­e­cu­tion, mak­ing the ex­tra pass and get­ting the open shot.”

But Free­man si­lenced the crowd mo­ments later when he calmly sank a three-pointer of his own to re­store the Hoyas’ sev­en­point edge. As he backed down the court, he had some play­ful words for the fans in the first row. Asked for the sig­nif­i­cance of Free­man’s ges­ture, Thomp­son would only say, “I’m very happy when Austin Free­man is mak­ing shots.”

The Scar­let Knights (10-7, 1-4) never chal­lenged again, and the Hoyas fi­nally could ex­hale. The pro­gram’s long­est los­ing streak since Jan­uary 2009 was over.

Ge­orge­town, though, won’t have much time to re­lax, not with Tues­day’s trip to Se­tonHall loom­ing and not with a steep up­hill climb still await­ing.

“Mo­men­tum-wise, it’s good to get a win,” Wright said. “We’re feel­ing good about our­selves go­ing into a game, not feel­ing, ‘ Dag we got an­other loss on us.’ ”

All was not per­fect for the Hoyas, how­ever. For the third straight game, they were out­e­bounded (31-30) and com­mit­ted more turnovers than their op­po­nent, 14-12. They were also outscored 34-22 in the paint, though Thomp­son said that was a func­tion of Rut­gers try­ing to take away Ge­orge­town’s three-point threats.

But for all the flaws, the Hoyas es­caped from a tough en­vi­ron­ment with a much-needed vic­tory.

“It was good for the team,” Wright said. “Now we have to build off of this and have a good prac­tice to­mor­row.”

MEL EVANS/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“It was good to fi­nally make shots. We got in a good rhythm shoot­ing the ball,” Ge­orge­town's ChrisWright said of snap­ping the slumps.

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