When the Hoyas did battle with Memphis last year, Georgetown dominated the Tigers, coming away with a decisive victory. In the fifth-place game at the Maui Invitational tonight, the Hoyas faced a closer battle, outlasting the No. 8 Tigers 91-88 in Memphis’ second overtime thriller in as many days.
While much of the focus so far this season has been on the development of the Hoya freshmen, it was the upperclassmen that willed the Blue and Gray to their first marquee victory of the year. Seniors Jason Clark and Henry Sims combined for fifty points and supplied the Hoyas with big shots when they were needed the most.
As Memphis’ run-and-gun offense turned the first half into more of a track meet than a basketball game, Clark’s 17 points before the break helped the Hoyas snag a five point lead by halftime. They kept pace with the Tigers’ swift and streaky scorers, thanks in part to a 19-2 Georgetown-run in the early going.
Memphis looked more under control in the second half, quickly eliminating the Hoyas’ advantage. Tiger sophomores Will Barton and Joe Jackson seemed unguardable at times, as the Tigers began to look more like the top-ten team people expected. Despite his slow start, Jackson’s agility allowed him to get into the paint at will in the second half, as he finished with 20 points on the night.
Yet, even as Memphis’ caliber really began to shine, the Hoyas kept a foothold on the contest through Sims, who had, quite simply, his best game as a college basketball player. The one-time recruiting bust exploded Wednesday night, man-handling the four-guard Memphis lineup, unveiling an array of smooth post moves, and even stepping out to drain the occasional jumper. With 25 points on 10-17 shooting, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, Sims has already backed up his pre-season sentiment that he came into his senior year ready to play a major role for the Hoyas.
Sims’ performance became all the more important when the Tigers’ lone big-man, sophomore Tarik Black, fouled out with 1:43 left in the game and the Hoyas trailed 76-75. Needing a basket to tie in the final seconds, Head Coach John Thompson III called Sims’ number with the game on the line. Despite the center’s miss on a short turn-around jumper, freshman Greg Whittington was alert and finished the easy put-back, sending the game into overtime. The Tigers had plenty of time to get a good shot before time expired, but after they dawdled with the ball on the perimeter, freshman Adonis Thomas heaved an off-balance three (that may as well have been from the mainland), which fell short and added five minutes to the clock.
In the added period, Georgetown continued to run the offense through Sims in the post, while the Hoyas’ aggressive defense hounded the Memphis shooters. With less than a minute left in OT, Clark reemerged after a quiet second half to hit a three-point dagger that put the Hoyas up four. Sophomore Markel Starks and junior Hollis Thompson nailed crucial free throws down the stretch to seal the Georgetown victory and 2-1 record in Maui.
The win not only gave the Hoyas a winning record against the vaunted Maui field, but it also secured a key victory that will be invaluable as NCAA committee members analyze Georgetown’s resume for the NCAA Tournament in March. The Hoyas should expect to find themselves in the top-25 when the rankings come out on Monday. With another meeting against Memphis scheduled for December 22nd at the Verizon Center, the Hoyas have to feel confident they can repeat their performance in the Pacific and enter Big East play having already beat expectations during their non-conference schedule.
Photo: Helen Burton