WASHINGTON (AP) -Welcome back, Austin Freeman. Georgetown fans are so glad you're feeling better.
Six days after being taken to the hospital and diagnosed with diabetes, Freeman scored 24 points Saturday as the No. 19 Hoyas clinched a first-round bye in the Big East tournament with a 74-47 win over Cincinnati in both teams' regular season finale.
With a university doctor and the team's trainer monitoring his every move, Freeman made 8 of 15 shots, including 4 of 7 3-pointers, in 30 minutes. Greg Monroe had 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Chris Wright had 16 points as Georgetown (20-9, 10-8) finished in the top half of the 16-team Big East, avoiding the dreaded Tuesday game in a conference tournament that has been expanded to five days.
Freshman Lance Stephenson scored a career-high 23 points to lead Cincinnati (16-14, 7-11), one of the eight teams that will have to win five games in five days to take the tournament title. Deonta Vaughn, averaging nearly 12 points, went 0-for-3 from the field and finished with two points.
Georgetown didn't have any seniors to honor on senior day, so it became a de facto Austin Freeman Day. It started when Freeman was given a standing ovation when presented with a game ball by coach John Thompson III in recognition of the junior guard's 1,000th career point, scored a few games ago.
Then came another standing ovation when Freeman was announced with the starting lineup. He scored Georgetown's first basket with a layup, then hit a pair of 3-pointers. Freeman drove the paint, drew heavy contact but no foul as he forced his way to a layup that prompted Cincinnati to call timeout, the crowd to rise to its feet and several sections of fans to start chanting ``Aus-tin Free-man.'
Among the homemade signs at the Verizon Center: ``Awesome Austin,' ``We love you, Austin' and ``AFREE15,' a reference to his jersey number. Freeman played only four minutes fewer than his average of 34. When he left the game, he would sometimes sit near the far end of the bench next to trainer Lorry Michel.
Freeman, the Hoyas' leading scorer for the season, was thought to have a stomach virus when he missed Monday's loss to West Virginia and was limited in a loss to Notre Dame two days earlier. He was diagnosed Monday night, returned to practice Wednesday and will have the doctor attending all of his practices and games for the rest of the season.
The bench-thin Hoyas need Freeman to have any chance at making a run in the postseason. There is no reliable scorer outside the starting five, a lack of depth that was starting to show as Georgetown entered Saturday's game on a 1-4 skid.
Neither team led by more than six in the first half, and the Bearcats' Cashmere Wright eliminated half of that deficit with a 3-pointer at the first half buzzer.
But Georgetown turned the second half into a rout. Freeman made the score 40-32 early in the second half with a 3-pointer, and pushed the lead to 50-35 with two free throws when he was fouled after making a steal - leading to another standing ovation.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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