LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In the second-to-last game at historic Freedom Hall, with legendary Louisville coach Denny Crum in attendance, No. 11 Georgetown (19-7, 9-6 Big East) silenced a raucous crowd with a second-half run and held on for a come-from-behind victory on the road.
Behind junior guard Austin Freeman’s 24 second-half points, the Hoyas snapped their two-game losing streak with a 70-60 road win over Louisville (18-10, 9-6) in front of 19,917 spectators at a sold-out Freedom Hall. Freeman led all scorers with 29 points.
“This building, it’s a very tough environment,” Head Coach John Thompson III said of his final visit to Freedom Hall. “Hopefully when we move into their new, pretty place next year, hopefully it’s not as rough.”
The Hoyas got off to a slow start, missing seven of their first eight shots, falling behind 13-3 six minutes into the game.
The Hoyas’ solution to their early woes was a heavy dose of sophomore center Greg Monroe, who took 13 of the Hoyas’ 27 shots in the first half. With the talented big man matched up against sophomore forwards Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings, the Hoya offense flowed through Monroe, who looked good both driving from the perimeter as well as scoring the ball with his back to the basket in the paint.
Monroe, who finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, his 13th double-double of the season, also did it on the defensive end, holding Samuels to five first-half points. Samuels finished the day with 11 points, five below his season average.
“Our defense, we were able to make them take contested shots that they missed,” Thompson said.
The Hoyas, who shot 37 percent from the field in the first half, missed five layups in the first stanza, including four by Monroe.
In the second half it was all Freeman and the Hoyas.
The junior from DeMatha started the half with a three, then got an offensive rebound on the next possession and put it back up to cut the Louisville lead to one at 35-34. After Jennings missed a pullup, Freeman responded with another trey to cap his own 8-0 personal run against the Cardinals to give the Hoyas their first lead of the day at 37-35.
The Hoyas never trailed again.
“It got started, I think it was the second play of the second half, where Austin [Freeman] got an offensive rebound and that kind of got him going, which is an understatement,” Thompson said about the second-half run.
Freeman said he just wanted to be assertive.
“I just wanted to stay aggressive in the second half and not force anything,” Freeman said of his second-half burst. “My teammates found me out on the wing and I had the opportunity to take the shot and I did.”
Led by Freeman’s 7-of-8 shooting, Georgetown shot 59.1 percent in the second half to finish the day at a 46.9 percent clip on 23-of-49 shooting. Louisville shot 44 percent from the field on 22-of-50 shooting.
The Hoyas dominated the second half, outrebounding the Cardinals to finish the day with a 33-26 advantage on the boards. Monroe led the way with 14 boards, but the Hoyas made it a team effort with all eight players grabbing at least two rebounds, including 6-foot-3 freshman guard Vee Sanford.
With Samuels missing tough shots around the basket, Monroe was able to clean up on the glass. His 13 defensive rebounds were a big reason why Georgetown held Louisville to five offensive rebounds in the game.
“That’s something we have to do every game,” Monroe said. “Rebounding is something that we focus on as a team and something that I focus on. Coaches look at me and my teammates to rebound every night. It’s important every game, but tonight it was big for us.”
Against Rick Pitino’s tenacious press, the Hoyas were generally poised. Using a press break which relied heavily on junior guard Chris Wright’s ability to beat his man to the timeline off of the dribble, the Hoyas only had six turnovers in the second half compared to 10 assists.
Wright, who was held to just four points on 0-for-4 shooting, dished out four assists, grabbed two rebounds and went 4-of-5 from the line, including four straight in the final 60 seconds.
“I thought Chris Wright, down the stretch there, for someone going through a game where he did not score that many points, I thought, probably from the 14-minute [mark] on he was terrific,” Thompson said. “He was extremely impressive handling their pressure, which is hard to do.”
After struggling from the line in a loss to Syracuse, the Hoyas were a cool 16-of-20 from the free-throw line on Tuesday, including 9-of-9 in the second half.
After tumbling in the Big East standings thanks to its two-game skid, Georgetown has now given life to hopes of a top-four finish in the Big East and the coveted double bye that comes with it. The Hoyas, who had fallen behind Louisville in the standings, now find themselves in fifth place, just a game behind No. 8 West Virginia, who the Hoyas play next Monday.
“It’s big,” Monroe said about Tuesday night’s victory. “Right now we’re playing for seeding, and you know the Big East is a big mess, and the only way you can stay out of trouble with that mess is to keep on winning.”
Next up for the Hoyas is a home date with Notre Dame on Saturday at Verizon Center. Tipoff is scheduled for noon.