Hoyas, Freeman answer questions with Big East tournament performance

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 13, 2010

NEW YORK -- Georgetown entered the Big East tournament dogged by questions and good bit of skepticism.

Would Austin Freeman, the team's leading scorer, be able to fully contribute only eight days after being diagnosed with diabetes?

And which Georgetown team would show up? The balanced, sharp-shooting squad that knocked off Villanova, Duke and Pittsburgh despite playing the nation's toughest schedule? Or the slow-starting, lackluster bunch that dropped winnable games to Rutgers, South Florida and Old Dominion?

In toppling top-seeded Syracuse, 91-84, to advance to Friday's Big East semifinals at Madison Square Garden, the Hoyas played arguably their best basketball of the season.

The Hoyas shot 57.9 percent (69.2 percent in the second half) against Syracuse's maddening zone defense. Four players finished in double figures, paced by Chris Wright's 27. They had 22 assists on 33 field goals. And, for the first time this season against the Orange, they won the rebounding battle and forced more turnovers (17) than they committed (12).

And there was no doubt about Freeman's ability to do his part.

The junior guard scored 18 points in 37 minutes' work, taking advantage of time-outs to quickly check his blood-sugar readings to make sure they were in normal ranges.

So far, Freeman hasn't missed a step since the diagnosis, playing 37 minutes in the Hoyas' second-round Big East victory over South Florida, as well, and 30 minutes in his first game back against Cincinnati to close the regular season..

Coach John Thompson III conceded Thursday that the past 10 days had been "trying" for the player and his family. But as long as his blood-sugar levels are in range, he added, Freeman will be fine.

"We're fortunate because we have specialists with us sitting right behind the bench at every practice, every game," Thompson said. "Even with the time-outs, they are always monitoring him. And as long as we keep, and he keeps, his levels fine, he'll be able to perform."

That said, Thompson didn't minimize the challenge Freeman faces, both short- and long-term.

"A lot of people talk about what Austin and his family are going through almost like it's a sprained ankle or something. 'When is he going to be back?' Or, 'When is he going to pay?' 'How is he going to play?'" Thompson said. "This is something that's change his life and will change his life. It's much bigger an much more important than how is Austin doing and how does he feel on the court."

Overall it was a tumultuous day at the Garden Thursday, with three of the tournament's top four seeds falling in their opening game, each having earned a double-bye directly to the quarterfinals.

West Virginia, seeded third, was the only favored seed to advance, needing a 3-pointer at the buzzer to turn back 11th seed Cincinnati, 54-51. The Mountaineers will face Notre Dame, which upset No. 2 seed Pittsburgh, in Friday's 9 p.m. semi-final.

Georgetown takes on fifth-seed Marquette, which ousted No. 4 Villanova, 80-76.

Georgetown lost to all three remaining teams during the regular season.

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