Barely able to walk on his sprained right ankle as he headed to the locker room late in the first half, Austin Freeman made one unyielding request of Georgetown head trainer Lorry Michel.
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”I told Miss Michel I was going to play through it anyway,” Freeman said. ”I just told her to tape me up and let me go back out there.”
Fans cheered when Freeman returned to sit on the bench at the start of the second half and again when he entered the game a few minutes later.
They chanted ”Aus-tin Free-man” when he hung in the air and shot-putted a basket off the glass – and again when he took a charge.
He wasn’t 100 percent, and a couple of his shots weren’t close, but his 17 points helped No. 11 Georgetown get past Marquette 69-60 Sunday to run the Hoyas’ winning streak to eight games.
”I was in pain, but I played through it,” said Freeman, who scored eight points in the second half of a game that was close throughout. ”It didn’t hurt as much while I was played, so I’m good.”
Coach John Thompson III said Freeman’s ankle will be evaluated back at campus, but the coach doesn’t think it will affect the Big East preseason player of the year’s availability for Wednesday’s game at Connecticut.
Chris Wright scored 20 points, and Hollis Thompson grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds for the Hoyas (20-5, 9-4), who moved into sole possession of third place in the Big East and kept alive their longest conference win streak since their Final Four season of 2006-07.
Georgetown won despite an off night against Marquette’s tough man-to-man defense, shooting 43 percent from the field, including 7 for 27 from 3-point range.
But the Hoyas held the Golden Eagles to 40 percent for the game, including 31 percent in the second half, as the top two shooting teams in the conference both struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
Darius Johnson-Odom scored 20 points for the Golden Eagles (15-10, 6-6), who had a season-low five assists and dropped back to .500 in the congested heart of the conference standings.
The nine-point margin of defeat was the biggest for Marquette this season, but it counts the same as a blowout.
”That’s a hard life to live, personally and professionally,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. ”In the last two years, we’ve lost one double-digit game. But you have to win in order to be a part of any discussion.”
Even with Freeman’s injury, Marquette was by far the more entertaining team. Williams ran the first half like a hockey coach, shuffling multiple players in and out of the game at virtually every break in play. He didn’t substitute as liberally in the second half, but he kept a constant flow of players coming off the bench.
”Play ’til you’re exhausted and then come a have a seat,” Williams explained, ”and somebody else will be exhausted by the time you get a drink.”
Williams himself was almost like a sixth man, constantly straying so far from the coach’s box during play that Georgetown’s fans jeered him with the chant: ”Off the court!” Officials gave him a warning late in the second half, which he said he deserved.
”I was out of the box,” Williams said, ”because I don’t know where the box is.”
Johnson-Odom was cited for taunting when he made an ”OK” sign over his eye after making a 3-pointer in the first half. The shot gave Marquette an eight-point lead, but the momentum was stifled immediately because Georgetown made both technical free throws and then hit a 3-pointer for a five-point play.
Williams played the superstitious card by having second-leading scorer Jimmy Butler come off the bench for the second straight game. Williams pointed out that Butler also played as a reserve last week in a victory over South Florida after suffering a head injury in practice. Butler finished with 10 points on Sunday.
Freshman Davante Gardner, who had scored all of seven points in Big East play this season, was an influential presence in the paint and finished with 12 points before fouling out with 7:07 to play.
”Big fellow’s pretty good. He’s a load in there,” Thompson said. ”It definitely became easier when he fouled out of the game. You can be very effective when you can stand in the lane for seven or eight seconds.”
Freeman was hurt when his ankle was injured by a Marquette player while on the floor with 1:31 remaining in the first half. After his tape job, he hit a fadeaway baseline jumper with 12 minutes left in the game that made the score 42-41. The Hoyas would not trail again.
Freeman later made two baskets in a 9-1 run that gave the Hoyas a little breathing room. Jason Clark’s two free throws with 3:43 remaining made it 61-51 – the only double-digit lead either team would have in the game.
Marquette pulled within three on Johnson-Odom’s steal and layup that made it 63-60 with 1:41 to go, but Julian Vaughn’s dunk started a game-ending 6-0 run as the Hoyas kept their streak intact in basketball’s toughest conference.
”That’s just how the Big East is,” Wright said. ”We won eight (straight) games, and we’re still in third place.”