- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

Has the ghost of Mike Sweetney been exorcised from the building? The Georgetown Hoyas think so.

Georgetown senior center Courtland Freeman had a career game yesterday. If it wasn’t an aberration, the Hoyas might have made a smooth transition in the post after losing the rugged Sweetney last summer to the NBA.

Freeman scored a career-high 21 points and added a career-high six blocked shots and six rebounds as Georgetown pounded Howard 89-58 before 4,412 at MCI Center. When the game was over, coach Craig Esherick boldly proclaimed that his undefeated Hoyas (8-0) have found a tower of power to lead them into the Big East season.

“I think we just found ourselves a big man,” Esherick said. “He’s been on our team all along, but hopefully this is his coming-out party. This is as well as Courtland Freeman has played. On the inside, he blocked shots, he rebounded, he scored in the post and he forced people to foul. This is the way, certainly I’m hoping, that we can see Courtland play the rest of the season.”

Perhaps this game was a tuneup for Freeman going home to his native South Carolina tomorrow when the Hoyas play The Citadel in Charleston. But just playing another District school yesterday was enough to fire up the 6-foot-9 Freeman.

“It’s an inner-city game and so you know they’re going to be talking if something were to happen the opposite way, so we had to make sure that we came out and established ourselves,” he said.

Georgetown’s excellent start enabled Freeman to operate almost uncontested in the second half. Freeman scored 14 of his team-high 21 points with the Hoyas comfortably in control.

The red-hot Hoyas couldn’t miss in the first half, shooting 61.3 percent (19 of 31) from the floor, their best shooting half of the season. Georgetown’s marksmanship all but started up the bus for Howard, which trailed 50-21 at halftime.

The Bison (2-6) weren’t prepared to deal with Georgetown’s perimeter firepower. In the first 3:07, Georgetown made three of its four first-half 3-pointers and led 14-5. The Hoyas’ 15-2 run midway through the first half turned the game into a rout.

“We did a great job on both ends in the first half,” said Esherick, who is just two wins shy of 100 for his five years as coach. “Offensively, I thought we did a great job. I thought our shot selection in this game was much better.”

The game was a good indication of what the Hoyas can do when they are clicking. During the week, Esherick stressed to his team to use this crosstown clash as a tuneup for Rutgers in Georgetown’s Big East opener Jan.3 at MCI.

Other than committing 19 turnovers, Georgetown responded well. The Hoyas received balanced scoring behind Freeman as senior swingman Gerald Riley contributed 17 points, forward Brandon Bowman added 16 and small forward Darrel Owens matched his career high with 14.

“When you’re playing that well, it’s kind of hard to see some of the mistakes you make,” Riley said, referring to the turnovers.

The Hoyas had a 41-28 rebounding edge and forced Howard into 18 turnovers. Frankie Allen, Howard’s fourth-year coach, compares this year’s Georgetown team to last season’s Sweetney-led squad and likes what he sees.

“They’re physical like they’ve always been, but I think this unit seems to play well together,” Allen said. “There’s an old adage in basketball that sometimes it’s not your five best players, but it’s your best five players. I think what [Esherick] has is a combination of guys that kind of understand their roles on the team and play well with each other.”

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