While its late-season slide is a major concern, Georgetown recently learned of some much more serious news.
Austin Freeman’s diabetes diagnosis has the No. 19 Hoyas uncertain of their leading scorer’s status going forward, starting with the regular-season finale Saturday against visiting Cincinnati.
Freeman had been Georgetown’s most consistent player since early January, averaging 20.8 points and shooting 57.6 percent over his last 14 games before a visit from Notre Dame last Saturday.
The junior guard (17.0 points per game) scored just five points before leaving with an illness as the Hoyas (19-9, 9-8) fell 78-64 to the unranked Fighting Irish, and Freeman was held out with what was believed to be a stomach virus Monday at West Virginia.
Georgetown lost 81-68 to the 10th-ranked Mountaineers, and received even worse news later that night. Freeman was diagnosed with diabetes, and his availability for Saturday - as well as for next week’s Big East tournament - is up in the air.
“It just has to come to the point where I have to be honest with myself,” Freeman said. “If I’m not feeling well, make sure I tell coach or (the trainer) or the doctor that I’m not feeling well, or even my teammates if nobody’s around.”
Freeman returned to practice Wednesday and Thursday, and he’ll have a doctor from the university’s hospital on hand for every practice and game as a precaution.
Coach John Thompson III said he is “100 percent” certain Freeman will play again this season, but wouldn’t say whether he’ll give it a go against Cincinnati.
If he can’t, freshman Hollis Thompson (4.4 ppg) will likely start.
“I don’t know what the time frame is going to take for us to learn how to monitor and work with (Austin),” John Thompson said. “But we will get to that point, and with all the experts and support we have, I don’t anticipate it being long.”
Georgetown, which has possibly the thinnest bench in the Big East, has to work on its penchant for slow starts with or without Freeman. The Hoyas have been held under 30 first-half points in their last three games.
They’ll need a win to ensure a bye into the second round of the conference tournament, but the Bearcats (16-13, 7-10) beat Georgetown twice in 2008-09 and the teams haven’t met this season.
Deonta Vaughn had 20 points in a 65-57 win in Cincinnati on Jan. 28, 2009, then scored 16 in the Bearcats’ 64-62 overtime win at the Verizon Center just 10 days later.
The Hoyas shot 40.4 percent in the two losses.
Like Georgetown, Cincinnati has dropped four of five, but it held its own against tough opponents the last two games despite losing both. West Virginia rallied from a six-point halftime deficit to beat the Bearcats 74-68 last Saturday, then No. 9 Villanova overcame 19 points from Rashad Bishop and 18 from Vaughn to win 77-73 on Tuesday.
That was Cincinnati’s seventh loss by six points or fewer, and barring a big run at the Big East tournament, coach Mick Cronin’s team will miss the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight season.
“These guys have been through a lot of heartbreak this year,” Cronin said.
To avoid more, the Bearcats likely need to contain big man Greg Monroe, who’s averaged 18.3 points in his last nine games.
The Hoyas’ third star scorer, however, has been inconsistent in that stretch. Chris Wright has scored 20 points four times and been held to 10 or fewer in the other five games.
Georgetown is 16-2 when Wright scores 11 or more.