Reaction from a few games on this wild Saturday:
Georgetown 72, UConn 69: Georgetown’s Austin Freeman had gone for 20 points in the loss at Marquette last week. But he had not showed signs that he could score 33 points like he did on Saturday, scoring just one fewer in the second half than Connecticut (29-28).
Freeman’s shooting spree means the Hoyas could have more freedom for Freeman and Chris Wright to shoot. Wright scored 34 in a win over Harvard, taking 21 shots. Freeman took 20 Saturday against the Huskies.
“I looked to be more aggressive,’’ Freeman said by phone Saturday from D.C. “If we’ve got the quick shot in the offense, then we can take it. If we don’t, then we’ll slow it down and run our offense.’’
Freeman said he hasn’t had this kind of role before. Greg Monroe is consistently going to be the go-to player, but what the Hoyas needed was to be less predictable and have more options. Having Freeman freelance is critical for this team’s growth.
“On our team we all know we can score,’’ Freeman said. “Two weeks ago, Chris had the hot hand. We’ll go to who has it.’’
The Hoyas had to have this game. They may not have said it prior to the game, but Georgetown couldn’t afford to be 2-2 with an early home loss if it wants to compete for the Big East title. The schedule is unforgiving. The Hoyas host Seton Hall and then have a crushing five-game stretch (with one breather): at Villanova, at Pitt, home against Rutgers, at Syracuse and then a nonconference game against Duke.
Wisconsin 73, Purdue 66: The Kohl Center is easily becoming one of the top-five homecourts in the country. The numbers back it up. Ninth-year UW coach Bo Ryan is 130-10 overall at the Kohl Center, 63-5 in conference and the Badgers have now beaten two top-10 teams (Duke, Purdue) in Madison this season.
“I just think our fans are wonderful. We feel comfortable here at home and our focus and preparation the week before the game was big,’’ Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes said by phone from Madison after the Badgers' win over Purdue on Saturday.
Hughes said UW maintained its cool throughout the game against the formerly undefeated Boilermakers.
“We’re like a boxer that gets punched once but we don’t throw our gameplan out the window,’’ Hughes said. “We didn’t lose our gameplan or our focus.’’
Hughes said the Badgers were out-toughed in the loss at Michigan State earlier this week and deemed the Spartans the most physical team in the league. But he said they didn’t let Purdue push them around.
The Badgers will play the respect card, too. Hughes said his team, which was picked ninth in the Big Ten in the preseason, still doesn't get the love it deserves. Wisconsin, now 3-1 in the Big Ten, plays at Northwestern, at Ohio State and hosts Michigan in the next three games.
Mississippi State 80, Ole Miss 75: This was a significant win for the Bulldogs. The Rebels were attempting to re-establish themselves as the team to beat in the SEC West as they continued to climb up the national rankings. The Bulldogs were not doing either and were coming off a road loss at Western Kentucky.
Mississippi State has played eight of its 16 games away from Starkville, with losses only to Rider at home, to Richmond in South Padre Island and at WKU.
“We have road experience now,’’ said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury by phone after the SEC-opening win at rival Ole Miss.
What the Bulldogs have that will likely be the difference for them is Jarvis Varnado along the back line. Varnado wouldn’t let the Rebels get in the paint, blocking Terrico White’s shot with 16 seconds left in a four-point game. The senior finished with six blocks.
The Bulldogs host Arkansas and Georgia next with the potential to get off to a 3-0 start in the SEC.
By the way, want another huge conference road win? Try UNLV winning at No. 14 New Mexico to drop the Lobos to 0-2 and giving the Runnin' Rebels a split of the BYU-UNM road swing, something that was essential if they were to be taken seriously in the ever-competitive Mountain West title chase. Kendall Wallace made 6 of 7 3s in the 74-62 win at the Pit. That's a big-time victory for Vegas.