As the final buzzer rang, Henry Sims stood at the top of the three-point line in disbelief. His second double-double in as many days turned out to not be enough, as his Hoyas fell in a thriller at Madison Square Garden, losing 72-70 to Cincinnati in double overtime. The senior matched wits with the Bearcats’ Yancy Gates for the entire afternoon, posting 22 points and 15 rebounds in the process. In the end, however, the game came down to one three-point attempt that clanked the back iron for Sims, ending Georgetown’s Big East Tournament run after two games.
But, the senior did not hang his head. Though clearly emotional and somber, Sims realized that he and his team played their hearts out and provided a capacity crowd at MSG with a thriller—though he sure would like to have that last shot back.
“I mean, it would have been nice to make that last one, obviously, but the first layup to put it into double overtime I think obviously felt good,” Sims said. “But I’d much rather have that shot at the end.”
That first layup Sims referred to actually saved the Hoyas in the first overtime, as he drove into the line and hit a shot to tie the game at 62 as time expired. He and freshman Otto Porter provided all but two points in extra time for the Hoyas, but it was not enough to overcome Gates and the Bearcat offense.
Both teams got off to sluggish starts in the first half, with the lead changing 10 times in the first 10 minutes. The Hoya offense only got in a rhythm shortly after freshmen Greg Whittington and Jabril Trawick entered the game. Trawick drew a foul and drained a free throw to tie the game at 15, which led to a string of six straight field goals for the Hoyas. The first three of those came from Sims, who followed a jumper with a putback and a strong move in the paint. The Bearcats worked hard to establish Gates in the paint early, but to no avail, as Sims took over on both ends with the help of junior Hollis Thompson and Porter.
In a manner all too reminiscent of their first meeting, the Bearcats staged a run in the second half to bring themselves within one point of the lead. The poor stretch included a goaltending call on Whittington and a Jason Clark turnover, culminating in a flagrant foul on Porter for an aggressive elbow to Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick. This time, though, the Hoyas did not relinquish the lead, regaining control of the game behind freshman Markel Starks and Sims.
The recap continues, along with analysis, after the jump:
The senior followed a runner in the lane by setting a strong screen for Starks, who drained just his second field goal of the day. After a Clark jumper from a Sims pass and screen, Starks opened the lead back up to seven points with a three-pointer.
The Bearcats could not buy a bucket on a strong Hoya defense during this stretch and were held without a field goal for over five minutes. With nine minutes left, their woes continued, as three players committed four fouls during one Georgetown possession 11 minutes into the half. The last of those whistles put the Bearcats in the bonus, allowing Clark to balloon the lead to 11 at 49-38 with a pair of free throws.
Cincinnati, however, was far from done. After Cashmere Wright capitalized on a layup, Gates muscled his way past Porter in the paint to bring his team within five points. On the next possession, Gates stole it away from Clark and was rewarded on the other end with an alley-oop pass that cut the lead to three. From there, both teams went back and forth before Porter drained a jumper near the end of regulation to send the teams into overtime. The rest is Big East Tournament history, as Cincinnati finally pulled out the victory after 50 minutes of play. Clark, a senior, was also emotional after his last Big East Tournament game, but was able to put the thriller in perspective.
“You know, I’d rather be sitting in here talking about a win, but they did a good job, and that’s a tough team,” he said of Cincinnati. “They played hard. You know, it doesn’t just come down to me scoring. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that can score the basketball. But like I said, I’d rather be in here talking about a win.”
Head Coach John Thompson III has given Sims, Clark, Porter, and Thompson major minutes over the late stretch of the season, seemingly tightening his rotation as the season grows older. The four starters played nearly the entire first half, though he did get other players involved early and often. For the game, all four players logged over 45 minutes apiece, accounting for 75 percent of the team’s total minutes.
While the coach’s emphasis on his best players is certainly warranted in a winner-take-all scenario, sophomore forward Nate Lubick logged just six minutes. In the team’s first matchup with the Bearcats, Lubick scored eight points and eight rebounds while playing strong defense. With a matchup like the 6’ 9” Gates, perhaps extended minutes for the sophomore would have lightened the load for Sims. When the Bearcats successfully created mismatches on the defensive end, Gates found himself against players like Porter and simply had his way with them in the paint. Perhaps Thompson centered his game plan on hindering the Cincinnati guards with speed of his own, but Lubick’s absence hurt the Hoyas down the stretch.
At halftime, the Hoyas had a grand total of two turnovers. Despite their clean beginning, the Hoyas coughed the ball over 12 times over the next 30 minutes, contributing to 12 steals and 16 fast-break points for the Bearcats. Cincinnati Head Coach Mick Cronin changed his defensive scheme a number of times. These transitions from man-to-man to zone ultimately threw off the Hoyas’ offense.
“They only had two turnovers at halftime, so we needed to turn up the heat,” Cronin said of his team’s defense. “Trying to get the guys going in the second half as much as possible, not worry about fouling. We’ve got to get up there and get some deflections. If we don’t turn them over we’re not going to win the game, got to get some turnovers, and they did a great job of that.”
The Hoyas can allow their disappointment to linger for another day or so, but then they have to reset as Selection Sunday approaches. One more loss and their season is ultimately over, but they will be dancing when the NCAA Tournament starts next week. As always, the Voice will have full coverage as Georgetown looks to earn their first NCAA Tournament win in almost four years.
Photos: Keaton Hoffman