By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 10, 2010; D01
After Georgetown got clobbered in a hapless first half against Big East rival Connecticut, Coach John Thompson III called for a dramatic tactical shift during the break. His Hoyas had scored a paltry 25 first-half points and at one point trailed the high-flying Huskies by 19.
So Thompson urged his players to slow down.
"Don't shoot so fast," he told them, pointing out that the only thing their hasty, fruitless possessions were accomplishing was handing Connecticut one easy basket in transition after another.
And by slowing down Georgetown's woefully misfiring offense, Thompson engineered a comeback that rivaled the tortoise over the hare in terms of improbability, as the Hoyas stormed back for a 72-69 victory before 15,654 delirious, disbelieving fans.
Junior guard Austin Freeman provided the heroics, scoring 28 of his career-high 33 points in a physical second half in which he repeatedly slashed to the basket past bigger defenders. Freeman also hit four of his six three-pointers in the half and drew a critical charging call after putting Georgetown ahead, 66-65, with 3 minutes 8 seconds remaining.
With the victory, 12th-ranked Georgetown (12-2, 3-1) asserted itself as a force in the ultra-competitive Big East, shaking off any ill effects from Wednesday's loss at Marquette.
No. 13 Connecticut (11-4, 2-2) fell for a fourth consecutive time to the Hoyas. This loss, Huskies Coach Jim Calhoun conceded, stung the most because his players had the game in their control, leading by 15 at the half and by one with 1:11 remaining.
"It's the most heartbreaking loss this year," said Calhoun, whose squad has dropped games against Duke, Kentucky and Cincinnati. "Not even close."
Calhoun congratulated Georgetown on the victory, saying he felt the game was "won rather than lost." And he singled out one tactic in particular as the difference-maker.
"First thing, they had Austin Freeman in uniform," Calhoun said. "That helps an awful lot. He is a bona fide, terrific, big-time player who made big-time shots."
On a deeper level, Calhoun credited Georgetown with doing what Thompson-coached teams tend to do best: getting the ball to whoever has the hot hand.
On this day, with sophomore center Greg Monroe rendered largely irrelevant by Connecticut's post players in the early going, that was Freeman, who had never before scored more than 21 points in a college game.
Monroe finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, including the final layup with nine seconds left and the final defensive rebound with one second remaining.
It was a game of radically different halves and wild swings of momentum.
Boasting a bigger, more explosive lineup, Connecticut had its way with Georgetown in every facet of the game in the first half. Calhoun proclaimed it the best 20 minutes his team had played all year.
The Huskies stymied Monroe, manhandled Georgetown on the boards, torched them from three-point range and crushed them with transition baskets while holding the Hoyas to 29.6 percent shooting.
Chris Wright finally snapped the Hoyas' 0-for-11 drought from the field with 49 seconds remaining and struck again to pare the deficit to 15. The Hoyas trudged to the locker room trailing, 40-25.
Monroe took a more assertive tack to open the second half, but Freeman had the touch, scoring seven points in a two-minute burst.
"I was just being aggressive," Freeman said. "My teammates got me open, and [Connecticut] left me open so I just took the shots."
Georgetown bolted to a 12-5 run, and a layup by Julian Vaughn made it a six-point game, with Connecticut leading, 45-39.
Freeman drew a foul and went to the line, where he is making more than 90 percent of his shots, to pull the Hoyas closer.
And when Connecticut turned the ball over on the next possession, even the stoic Freeman cracked a slight smile.
Wright knotted the score at 55 with a three-pointer. And the lead rocked back and forth from there.
Vaughn's tip-in with 53 seconds left put Georgetown ahead, 70-69, and Monroe roared in triumph after padding the margin further as the clock ticked down.