Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

MEN’S BASKETBALL | GU Overcomes Slow Start to Beat Marquette

CHRIS BIEN/THE HOYA Junior forward Henry SIms was crucial during the Hoyas' late run in Sunday's 69-60 victory over the Golden Eagles.
Junior forward Henry SIms was crucial during the Hoyas’ late run in Sunday’s 69-60 victory over the Golden Eagles.

Panic over a potentially devastating injury to Austin Freeman at the end of the first half turned into relief for the Hoyas on Sunday. The senior guard returned soon after the start of the second half and helped No. 11 Georgetown (20-5, 9-4 Big East) surge past Marquette (15-10, 6-6 Big East) for a 69-60 win.

The game started slowly as two of the best shooting teams in the country struggled from the field. The Golden Eagles were less fazed than the Hoyas by their inability to make jumpers and made a concerted effort to get the ball in the paint, where they scored 22 points in the first half. With a frontline led by freshman forward Davante Gardner, the visitors snagged six offensive rebounds in the first half and gave Georgetown’s big men fits.

“We just didn’t play well,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “I don’t think our defense was poor in the first half — our rebounding was [what was] poor.”

Senior guard Chris Wright carried the offensive load for the Hoyas in the first half even before Freeman’s injury, pouring in 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field while making three of his first four three-point attempts. Before rolling his ankle, Freeman had nine points but was the only Hoya other than Wright to make a three in the opening stanza; the hosts shot below 30 percent (4-for-14) from long range in the first 20 minutes.

Despite the injury to Freeman and the team’s struggles from three-point land and on the glass, the Blue and Gray headed into halftime down only four. But when Freeman did not come out with the team after the break, that lead looked much more daunting.

When the senior did make it out of the tunnel as halftime wound down, the Verizon Center crowd erupted, cheering and chanting his name well after he had made his way to the bench.

“I was in pain but I played through it,” Freeman said. “I told the trainer that I was going to play anyways so I just told her to tape me up, and I just went back out there.”

Sophomore forward Hollis Thompson replaced Freeman in the lineup to start the half but stayed on the court even after Freeman checked in at the 17:14 mark. Thompson, who set a career high earlier this year with 10 rebounds against UNC-Asheville, grabbed what seemed like every Marquette miss and snared 12 caroms in the second half alone.

“In the first half they outrebounded us, and coming out of the locker room at halftime we emphasized boxing out and getting rebounds,” Thompson said. “My teammates did a great job boxing out, which allowed me to come in and get the boards.”

Led by Thompson’s efforts, the Hoyas outrebounded the Golden Eagles, 19-16, in the second stanza, which enabled them to capitalize on an airtight defense that held Marquette to under 32 percent shooting in the second half. While it took a little while for Georgetown to take advantage of its defensive stops, the Blue and Gray kept hanging around and eventually took the lead for the first time — and for good — when Freeman hit a midrange jumper. The Golden Eagles did not go away quietly, however, as the Hoyas’ lead stayed between one and four points until junior center Henry Sims converted on a pivotal three-point play and Freeman converted an easy transition layup to push the lead to seven.

“One play that really sticks out to me was when Henry got an and-one,” Wright said. “That was a big turning point and we got some stops and got [into] transition. … After that, we decided to get stops and finish the game up.”

Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams concurred with Wright, specifically pointing out Sims’ bucket and subsequent free throw as the catalyst of the game-breaking run.

“The next six possessions we turned the ball over two times, [and] that led to transition baskets,” Williams said of his team’s play after Sims’ basket. “[And] the other four possessions we didn’t make a shot and it was in that segment … [that] it went from a one possession game to a three or four possession game.”

Although the visitors cut the lead to three with less than two minutes left, the Hoyas kept their nerve and hit their free throws to walk away with their eighth straight win and sole possession of third place in the Big East standings.

But even after eking out a tough win, Georgetown’s head coach remained even-keeled about his team’s play.

“In light of how we started conference play, we don’t need to be reminded that you have to play well to win in the Big East,” Thompson said. “In every game you have to scrap and you have to fight.”

Georgetown’s trek toward the end of the regular season continues on Wednesday when the Hoyas head to the XL Center to take on No. 9 Connecticut, which will be trying to get back on track after dropping three of its last four games.

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