With Austin Freeman limited, Georgetown falls to Notre Dame

Georgetown follows up a key win against Louisville earlier in the week by laying an egg at home, falling to the unranked Fighting Irish as Austin Freeman battles an apparent illness.
By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 28, 2010

Both 11th-ranked Georgetown and Notre Dame were without their leading scorers when the ball was tipped on Saturday at Verizon Center. Both teams needed a victory to bolster their standing in the highly competitive Big East.

But Notre Dame did a far better job compensating for the absence of its star, Luke Harangody, who has a bone bruise in his right knee. Meanwhile, Georgetown sputtered with its scoring machine, Austin Freeman, limited to 23 minutes and five points by an apparent illness.

As a result, Georgetown staggered to one of its more confounding losses of the season, 78-64. The Hoyas never were in a fight they should have handled with relative ease.

With the defeat, the Hoyas (19-8, 9-7) lapsed back into a troubling pattern of following a gutsy victory (in this case, Tuesday's comeback at Louisville) with an inexplicable defeat.

Moreover, the uninspired nature of the Hoyas' performance Saturday raises questions about how far this gifted squad can go in the Big East tournament, which starts March 9, and how deserving it is of a favorable seed in the NCAA tournament.

"To say today is disappointing would be an understatement. It was extremely disappointing," said Coach John Thompson III, who acknowledged Notre Dame's impressive shooting as a contributing reason for the loss. The Fighting Irish hit 57.1 percent of their shots from the floor (71.4 percent in the second half).

Freeman was given intravenous fluids shortly before tip-off, Thompson said, but did not start, sitting on the bench with his head buried under a towel while freshman Hollis Thompson assumed his spot in the lineup.

When an ashen-faced Freeman finally trudged onto the court with just less than nine minutes remaining in the first half and Georgetown trailing 19-14, he was of dubious benefit, understandably slow-footed and off-target, lofting air balls on two of the five shots he attempted in his 23 minutes of work.

Nonetheless, Coach Thompson leaned on him even more in the second half, playing Freeman for 15 of the period's 20 minutes.

Regardless of Freeman's fitness, the Hoyas brought the loss on themselves as a team by falling short in multiple ways.

Georgetown was still in the game at the half, trailing 31-27. But unlike Tuesday's comeback at Louisville, the Hoyas came out no sharper in the second half. Instead they played with sloppiness and malaise, careless with the ball on crucial possessions and inattentive to rebounding.

Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey conceded that Georgetown wasn't the same team without a healthy Freeman, who had been averaging a team-high 17.5 points per game. That said, Brey noted that the Irish faced a setback of comparable significance, with Harangody, the nation's second-leading scorer, unable to suit up for a fourth consecutive game.

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