Pre-Tip Off Thoughts: SU's Defense On Austin Freeman Is Key To Victory

In their last two games, the Syracuse Orange (No. 12 in the AP poll and No. 13 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) used a well-known, modern-day strategy that usually produces college basketball victories. The strategy, which is often called "holding the star player of the opposing team to single digits in scoring", will probably be needed Wednesday night as the Orange (20-4, 7-4) host No. 11 Georgetown Hoyas and Big East Preseason Player Of The Year, senior guard Austin Freeman, in a Big East Conference matchup at the Carrier Dome (7 p.m. on ESPN).

Last Wednesday, SU held Connecticut Huskies junior guard Kemba Walker, who entered the contest as the nation's second-best scorer, to just eight points on 3-of-14 (.214 percent) shooting. That defensive effort on Walker, who's now ranked sixth in the nation in scoring average, helped earn a road victory, 66-58, and snapped Syracuse's four-game losing streak. The 'Cuse defense followed up that performance Saturday afternoon, holding South Florida Bulls junior forward Augustus Gilchrist, who entered the matchup averaging a team-best 12.8 ppg, to just four points on 2-of-10 shooting.

Freeman is the key to Georgetown's offensive, which ranks second in the nation in field-goal percentage (50.2) and second in the conference in 3-point percentage (38.4). So far this season, the Hoyas are 10-1 when Freeman, who is shooting .457 percent from behind the 3-point arc, nets at least 20 points. However, the importance of the 6-foot-4 guard was showcased earlier this season during an early-season slump that had Georgetown losing four of it's first five Big East contests.

The nine-game slump -- which started with a loss at the Temple Owls (Dec. 9), finished with a home loss to Pittsburgh Panthers (Jan. 12) and the Hoyas compiling a 4-5 record -- featured Freeman averaging 15.2 points -- currently, Freeman has the third-best scoring average in the conference (18.7). Since then, Georgetown, which slipped to No. 23 in the country on Jan. 17, rallied with a six-game winning streak. The recent streak has been propelled by Freeman, who has compiled a six-game average of 22.1 points and earned Big East Player Of The Week honors, Jan. 24.

So just in case Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim forgot to place the "cover Austin Freeman 2-3 zone scheme" into Wednesday night's game-plan. Here's a reminder to SU, COVER FREEMAN!

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