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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Austin Freeman's Heroics Carry Hot Georgetown Past Cooled-Off Villanova

PHILADELPHIA -- Austin Freeman led all scorers, by far, with 30 points on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center, and he had 10 of Georgetown's last 12 points in the final 4:59 of a 69-66 nail-biter over eighth-ranked Villanova.

It was the two points he didn't score in that run, however, that were the most spectacular -- and Freeman was responsible for them, too. Trapped by two Villanova defenders on the sideline, with his back to the basket, near midcourt with 24 seconds left and the Wildcats trailing by just 65-64, Freeman somehow saw freshman teammate Nate Lubick alone on the right baseline. He sailed a pass to Lubick, who slammed it through to give Georgetown a 67-64 lead.            

Freeman then drained the two free throws that sealed it with 14.1 seconds left -- although the Hoyas (16-5, 5-3) did have to sweat out two more game-tying three-point attempts by Villanova before they could celebrate their fourth straight Big East win.

Villanova (17-4, 5-3) followed its shocking loss at Providence Wednesday with this defeat, its first at home in league play.

Sophomore Maalik Wayns came off the bench for the first time all season -- Dominic Cheek started in his place -- and ended up scoring 13 of his 15 points in the second half. Corey Stokes also heated up at halftime, scoring 11 of his 13 points. The pair combined for Villanova's last 15 points of the game. Three different times in the last 2:08, Wayns brought Villanova to within a point.

The Takeaway: At the same time this game was taking place, Louisville was knocking off Connecticut in double overtime at Storrs, moving the Cardinals ahead of Villanova and UConn in the Big East standings. Never mind going undefeated in conference play: only one-loss Pittsburgh and two-loss Louisville has fewer than three losses, and the schedule is only half over.

How It Was Won: Freeman made nothing but big plays down the stretch: a putback of his own missed drive with 1:41 left, a deep jumper from the left corner to barely beat the shot clock with 40 seconds left, the pass to Lubick, and the free throws.

How It Was Lost:
Villanova's press was hellacious in the final minutes, and can barely be faulted even for the Freeman jumper or the pass to Lubick -- but its long scoring droughts before that got it into a hole it never could get out of. They let a 44-42 deficit balloon to 10, 55-45, during a four-minute span and were down by nine with five minutes left before pressing full-court to close the gap. They shot 40.7 percent for the game, and only a late flurry overcame a poor three-point shooting performance.

What It Means: It seemed inconceivable that Georgetown could win without Chris Wright scoring at all -- but between first-half foul trouble and simply his attention to running the offense instead of looking for his shot, Wright logged a 0 in the point column. He finished with six assists, none bigger than the one to Freeman for his clutch jumper in the final minute. Essentially, concerns about the Big Three guards are relevant only when they have poor numbers in a loss.

Up Next:
Georgetown hosts Louisville Monday night, its third game in six days after an eight-day layoff. Villanova hosts Marquette on Wednesday.

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