As Georgetown’s players left the court all smiles to a standing ovation, the majority of Verizon Center’s 15,654 fans could be heard chanting two simple words: Austin Freeman.

Trailing by as many as 19 in the first half, No. 12 Georgetown (12-2, 3-1 Big East) stormed back in the second half behind the play of its junior guard, who scored a career-high 33 points – 28 in the second half – to lead the Hoyas to a 72-69 victory over No. 13 Connecticut (11-3, 2-2).

“I thought a couple of things they did. First thing they had Austin Freeman in uniform, that helps an awful lot,” Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun said.

Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III agreed with that assessment.

“Austin was rolling, the guys were unselfish and that’s when we’re at our best,” he said.

The Hoyas survived a frantic final 30 seconds in the instant Big East classic between the old rivals.

It was a tale of two halves, however, and the first half was all Connecticut.

The two teams traded baskets for the first 9:43 before Freeman took a pass from junior forward Julian Vaughn and drained a three to give the Hoyas a 19-18 lead and the momentum. It was the last time they would see either in the first half.

After senior forward Stanley Robinson slammed home an alley-oop from sophomore guard Kemba Walker to retake the lead, Connecticut ripped off 16 straight points over the next 5:23 to take a commanding 34-19 lead. Every time a Hoya missed a shot or turned the ball over it immediately found the hands of a Husky defender, who would throw an outlet pass to the wing in transition for quick points.

“Part of it was we were taking a lot of contested threes,” Thompson said. “We were taking long shots that they ended up with that immediately turned into points. Also, it was clear what was happening in the first half. We would have a bad offensive possession that turned into an easy basket for them.”

While the Huskies could not miss – they shot 50 percent in the first half from the floor and from three-point range – the Hoyas could not buy a basket, shooting 29.6 percent. Hoya misses turned into easy Connecticut rebounds off the glass, where the Huskies dominated in the first stanza, outrebounding the Hoyas 24-14. Georgetown would follow Freeman’s trey with a field-goal drought that lasted 9:27, mercifully ended with a jumper by junior guard Chris Wright with 50 seconds to play in the half. The Husky 22-6 run to end the half took the crowd out of the game and gave UConn a 15-point halftime advantage.

Asked whether Thompson’s halftime speech was calm or not, sophomore center Greg Monroe, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds said, “He was calm . for a second.”

Thompson said that the first half was not cause for concern in the home locker room.

“We scored 25 points in the first half and 47 in the second half, and part of the halftime talk was let’s not shoot so fast, let’s slow it down and we’ll score more,” he said.

Pep talks aside, the second half started inauspiciously for the Hoyas as Robinson nailed a jumper on the opening possession to increase the lead to 17. It was then that the Hoyas turned it on, cutting the lead to just four during a 16-3 run, highlighted by the play of Freeman.

Freeman had 10 of the Hoyas 16 points in the spurt, grabbing two rebounds to boot, and suddenly the Hoyas and their fans, who just minutes before seemed out of it, came to life.

Connecticut, which shot 44 percent from the floor in the second half and did not hit a three pointer, regained composure briefly, edging the lead to seven at 50-43, but once again Freeman got hot.

It started with a three-pointer at the 11:32 mark, which he followed up on the other end, forcing a turnover that he quickly turned into two points on a layup. The next time down he rebounded a Monroe miss and put it back for two more. A three by Wright, who had 14 points and four assists, from a Freeman dish would tie the game up. Seconds later Freeman did it himself, taking the ball down the right side, past two defenders and laying it in to give the Hoyas their first lead since the 10:17 mark in the first half. The layup capped a 14-5 Hoyas’ run.

Freeman said that, despite his sharp shooting, he didn’t think about whether he had the hot hand.

“When I hit [the shots] I just got back on defense because we had to with [Connecticut] because they were coming back down,” said the junior.

He did it on the defensive end too, drawing a charge on senior guard Jerome Dyson during a crucial possession with 3:08 to play, as the Hoyas held a precarious one-point advantage.

The Hoyas, who had eight turnovers which led to 10 points in first half, took much better care of the ball in the second half, with just two turnovers, while Connecticut had nine in the second half and 15 for the game.

Freeman’s shooting and defensive play got the Hoyas back into the game, but it was their play on the glass and in the paint, where they had 30 points in the second half, which sealed the victory. Down one with 1:35 to play, Freeman pulled up but his shot was off the mark. A crashing Vaughn leaped from the left side of the rim and tipped the ball out of a Connecticut defender’s reach and into the waiting hands of Monroe, who laid it in for two and the lead. Vaughn did it again the next time down, again down one, as he rebounded a Monroe miss and put it back to give Georgetown the lead at 70-69.

Vaughn’s effort did not go unnoticed.

“We talked about getting better offensive possessions and positioning to get more rebounds,” Thompson said. “Julian Vaughn coming down the stretch had that big tip-in and the one that he tipped that Greg ended up getting.”

The Huskies didn’t go away easily; it would take two missed jumpers and a steal by Wright to set up a layup by Monroe off of an assist from Freeman. It was Freeman’s second assist of the day to go with his 33 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Robinson missed a desperation heave and the celebration began.

It was then, as the final buzzer sounded, that the Austin Freeman chants began to fill the arena.

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