CHICAGO – So end the college careers of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman.
Along with fellow seniors Julian Vaughn and Ryan Dougherty, the two guards played their final game in a Georgetown uniform on Friday. The sixth-seeded Hoyas abruptly exited the NCAA tournament with their fifth consecutive loss, a 74-56 setback at the hands of No. 11 seed VCU, which finished fourth in the CAA.
The Hoyas have now lost three straight NCAA tournament games, all against double-digit seeds, and after four years on the Hilltop, Wright and Freeman will leave with exactly one win in the Big Dance. Eerily, it was one year ago to the day that 14th-seeded Ohio shocked Georgetown in a somewhat similar first-round loss.
“We’ve got a group of seniors, Chris, Austin, Julian, Ryan Dougherty,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “Four years goes fast, and they’ve given a lot and worked their behinds off. And that’s tough. You know, a lot will be said about what this group did or didn’t do in their four years in the postseason. But they’ve given a lot to the school. And I just want to thank them.”
Out of the gate, it looked as if Georgetown was using Wright’s return from a broken hand to its advantage; after a Jason Clark layup at the 8:15 mark of the first half, the Hoyas led 19-18. But a 17-5 run by the Rams extended VCU’s lead to 11 at the half, and the Hoyas were unable to return the punch until late in the second half when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“They outplayed us,” Wright said. “They shot the ball well, and they beat us.”
For sure, VCU rolled over Georgetown for most of the evening. The Rams, led by Brandon Rozzell’s 26 points and six threes off the bench, shot 12-for-25 from beyond the arc, forced 17 turnovers and got to the free throw line 26 more times than the Hoyas.
“You know, we clearly did not protect the three-point line as we needed to against a good shooting team,” Thompson said. “That was not a surprise that they can put the ball in the basket. We just did not do a good job.”
But Thompson’s team did plenty on its own to assure itself a loss. While sophomore forward Hollis Thompson had the best game of his Georgetown career (26 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 4-for-6 from three), Freeman, Wright and Clark combined for a hard-to-believe 0-for-16 from deep. In fact, excluding Thompson, the Hoyas shot an equally unfathomable 1-for-20 from beyond the arc.
“It’s just the way the stars were aligned,” John Thompson said. “Austin’s 0-for 7. Jason’s 0-for-3. Chris is 0-for-6. We’re not going to win too many games if all three of those guys have nights like that. Unfortunately, it happened tonight.”
Perhaps the most disturbing three-point-related stat of all involves Freeman. The senior finished his career on a 7-for-52 slump from downtown.
“That’s just me missing shots,” Freeman said, asserting the ankle he sprained against Marquette has been a non-issue for him. “That’s me not getting it done.”
With Thompson playing like more of a wing and doing most of his work from the perimeter, the Hoyas got two points – a putback by Vaughn off an offensive rebound – from their bigs, who did outrebound VCU 33-23 on the night. Aside from Vaughn’s three attempts, no forward or center even put up a shot, leaving Georgetown with no threat inside and making the guard-driven Hoyas much easier to defend.
Playing as well as any team in the nation little more than a month ago, the Hoyas rattled off eight straight victories in the middle of the season. But an ankle injury slowed Freeman, Wright broke his hand and Georgetown’s play suffered up and down the roster on both ends of the court. The Hoyas were faced with significant adversity at an inopportune time, and they were simply unable to respond.
The 2010-2011 season began with questions about what might happen if the jumpshot-happy Hoyas were not making their threes and if the frontcourt didn’t provide enough. On Friday, Georgetown was not making its threes, the frontcourt didn’t provide enough and an embarrassing blowout loss ensued.
As the Hoyas drop to 1-3 in the NCAA tournament since the 2007 Final Four run, let the debate begin about the legacy of the Wright-Freeman teams, which were supposed to build on the Green-Hibbert-Wallace foundation and take the program to the next level.