Henry Sims saved arguably his best career outing for the biggest stage, posting 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists in Georgetown’s Big East Tournament opener. The Hoyas (23-7, 12-6 Big East) struggled to maintain control of the game early in the first and second halves, but dominated the latter parts of both, defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers (17-16, 5-13) 64-52. The victory sets up a matchup this afternoon with Cincinnati. Tipoff is slated for 2 pm at Madison Square Garden and will be aired on ESPN.
Recap of Wednesday’s victory and preview of today’s matchup after the jump..
Taking down Pitt
It was the senior center’s night to shine, as Sims dominated from the get-go. Prior the game, he understood the Panthers dominated on the inside in their prior matchup and took it upon himself to prevent a repeat of their January effort. Head Coach John Thompson III has come to expect this type of effort from his senior, but felt Sims stepped up in an especially big way on Wednesday.
“I thought he [Sims] was very good today in terms of his effectiveness on the block, his effectiveness as a passer and, his decision making out there,” Thompson said. “We’re pretty good when we get that kind of effort out of him, smart effort, when he produces like he did today.”
Sims was supported by a pair of freshmen, as Otto Porter matched his output with 20 points of his own to go along with 6 rebounds. Greg Whittington chipped in 11 points and 6 rebounds before leaving the game with a turned ankle (that did not appear all too serious). The humble Porter spoke about his and Whittington’s efforts in his typical, humble manner.
“I mean, I just tried to step up for my team when it comes down to playing hard and things like that,” Porter stated. “And me and Greg, we know that we’ve got to play our roles and step up and help this team throughout the rest of the season.”
In addition to their offensive efforts, the two freshmen served as catalysts for the team’s stifling zone defense. The defensive wrinkle stagnated the Panther offense, evident in Nasir Robinson’s seven points. In their previous matchup, Robinson had his way, shooting a perfect 9-9 from the field en route to 23 points. The senior forward credited the Hoyas’ for their work on the defensive end, noting the difference from their first matchup.
“It was a big problem for us,” Robinson said of Georgetown’s length. “We was going in there, shooting against two and three guys. They did a good job of rebounding, and they just out worked they were more physical than us.”
The Hoyas had a little more trouble with Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh’s primary offensive weapon, though he only scored 14 points for the afternoon. Thompson, for one, believed his team’s return to their trademark defense was the main reason for their easy victory.
“The first time we played them [Pittsburgh], our back line wasn’t good, and they ended up with a handful of lay ups and dunks,” Thompson said. “And I think they got a few today, but I think our back line, the communication of our back line in that zone was much better today.”
There is no rest for the weary, however, as the Hoyas have less than 24 hours to prepare for Cincinnati, a team that has been a thorn in their sides for quite a few seasons. That trend continued this season, as the Bearcats won their January matchup 68-64 behind 49 combined points from Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon. That first matchup was quite physical and perhaps one Georgetown should have had, as they only relinquished the lead with two minutes left in the second half. As with yesterday’s matchup with Pittsburgh, there will be extra motivation as the Hoyas seek to avenge another early-season loss.
Additional reporting: Abby Sherburne
Photos: Keaton Hoffman