Georgetown rebounds from loss by holding off South Florida

TAMPA, Fla. -- The question was intended for Georgetown's Chris Wright, but coach John Thompson answered instead.

Wright scored a season-high 26 points, taking up the slack for a sputtering Austin Freeman, to help the ninth-ranked Hoyas hold off struggling South Florida 61-55 for their ninth victory in 10 games on Saturday night.

When the senior guard was asked if there are moments when he feels he has to try to take over games, Thompson interrupted and cracked: "When he gets out of bed."

It was the only time Wright, who was 8 of 12 from the field and made six free throws in the final 29.7 seconds, was stopped all night.

"It's good to have players that know how and when to help each other, to pick each other up and to cover for each other. ... There's going to be different people's turn on different nights, and tonight it was Chris," Thompson said.

The Hoyas (21-6, 10-5 Big East) rebounded from an eight-point loss to Connecticut, pulling away during an 18-8 surge and hanging on despite getting a season-low four points on 2 of 10 shooting by Freeman, the conference's third-leading scorer.

"I just try to be aggressive," Wright said. "Usually, he's making everything he throws up, so I don't have to score 20 points."

Jason Clark was the only other Georgetown player in double figures with 10 points, including a layup that gave the Hoyas their biggest lead of the night, 49-38, with 6:40 remaining.

USF's leading scorer, Augustus Gilchrist, had his best game in nearly a month, however his 22 points on 10 of 16 shooting wasn't enough to prevent the Bulls (8-20, 2-13) from losing for the 15th time in 17 games.

Freeman, averaging just over 18 points, was held in single digits for the first time in 13 games and only the third time this season. His previous low was six, when he also was 2 of 10 from the field in a loss to St. John's on Jan. 3.

Despite having an off night scoring, Freeman did lead Georgetown with eight rebounds and added two assists.

"I'm a basketball player. I'm going to have to do what I have to do for my team to win," Freeman said. "If I'm not scoring, like today, I'm going to have to rebound because my team needs me to rebound."

The Hoyas finished the opening half on an 11-2 run to lead 28-26 at the break. Freeman missed his first four shots before finally making a layup for his first points with just over 17 minutes remaining, and he didn't score again until making a contested jumper in the lane to put the Hoyas up 55-47 with less than 2 minutes to go.

Wright took over from there, sinking six straight free throws down the stretch to keep Gilchrist, Hugh Robertson and Jawanza Poland from pulling off an improbable comeback. Robertson scored 10 points and Poland finished with 12, including a highlight-reel dunk that pulled the Bulls to 57-53.

"I think our guys recognize that even though our record looks like we're a bad team, that we're not what our record indicates," South Florida coach Stan Heath said. "We're going to fight you. We're going to battle, and at some point in time it's going to pay off for us."

Nevertheless, USF fell to 11-93 all-time against ranked opponents, including 0-10 this season. The Bulls are in the midst of a stretch in which they've played four of five games against Top 25 teams -- and the lone non-ranked foe, Marquette, rallied from a 16-point, second-half deficit on the road to win.

Georgetown was 11 of 12 from the foul line, with Wright making all eight of his attempts.

The Hoyas have won nine of 10 following a three-game slide against St. John's, West Virginia and Pittsburgh that dropped the Hoyas to 1-4 in the conference in early January. Along the way, they've taken care of business by not stumbling against sub-.500 teams like USF.

That wasn't the case a year ago, when Georgetown often played down to lesser opponents like USF, who upset the Hoyas on the road last February.

"I don't remember last year. I remember tonight," Thompson said. "We are a year older and wiser at just about every position."