By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 16, 2011; D05
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 three-pointer 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' seven-point 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 Seton Hall 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."