Georgetown and Savannah State are basketball programs with vastly different legacies, resources, and expectations, but on the court, the only difference that mattered was a basic one—height.
The Tigers (0-1), who’s tallest player is 6-foot-8, simply couldn’t match up with the Hoyas, especially senior center Henry Sims, who led Georgetown (1-0) to an 83-54 victory.
The victory marked the seventh consecutive win in season openers for head coach John Thompson III.
The 6-foot-10 Sims capitalized on his size mismatch in the post, scoring a game-high 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting while grabbing six rebounds. He was hardly the only Hoya to take advantage of his height, with the team combining to block 10 shots and shoot 72 percent on two-point field goals.
“I didn’t expect Sims to do that based on what he’s done in the past,” Savannah State head coach Horace Broadnax said. “But he’s a senior, he has to step up.”
Sims has had an up-and-down career as a Hoya, coming to the Hilltop as a highly-touted recruit from Baltimore. After showing some flashes of promise as a freshman, Sims had a disappointing sophomore campaign that saw the big man confined to the bench for much of the second half of the season. After reemerging as a role player last season, Thompson believes Sims is ready to step up—if he can continue to play to his strengths.
“Henry needs to just make hustle plays,” Thompson said. “The effort he gave today going after rebounds, and he had a couple blocked shots—his points came off of effort plays as opposed to worrying about shots.”
Thompson criticized Sims for taking a few ill-advised attempts in the first half, but the senior quickly settled down and settled into this game, cleaning up down low and taking advantage of the opportunities his teammates gave him.
“Our team is very unselfish,” Sims said. “If you cut and you’re open, your teammates will get you the ball.”
Sims reciprocated his teammates’ unselfishness, dishing out five assists of his own to tie a career high. It was a banner day all around for the senior, who shattered his best scoring mark by seven points and also tied a career high with three blocks.
In a game that marked the Hoya debut of four players and saw three starters from last season’s opener, Georgetown displayed both hints of a new style and typical growing pains.
“First game jitters for all of us,” Thompson said. “I was as nervous before this game as any I can remember, to tell you the truth. But I think that we settled down in the second half.”
Thompson couldn’t have been happy to enter halftime up only eight against a Savannah State squad that Broadnax readily admitted wasn’t in the same class talent wise as Georgetown. But the eighth-year head coach got really upset when the Tigers opened the period on a 5-0 run.
Thompson called timeout less than a minute into the second half to settle his team down. The Hoyas clearly got the message, capitalizing on three Tiger turnovers to break off a 12-0 run.
“We got a nice little run to cut it to three, and then our guys were like ‘game over,’” Broadnax said. “If we were hunting a lion and we almost got the lion, we can’t get excited about almost getting the lion. We’ll starve to death.”
In all, Georgetown scored 23 points off 16 Savannah State turnovers. Just as their size helped them in the paint, the Hoyas were able to clog the Tigers’ passing lanes and force errors.
“We have a very big team,” senior guard Jason Clark said. “Our length really causes a lot of turnovers. Being the big team that we are is going to cause a lot of problems for other teams.”
The Hoyas’ newcomers are one of the key sources of that length. Freshmen Otto Porter and Greg Whittington—both 6-foot-8—were the first two Hoyas off the bench and played big roles. Porter finished with nine points and eight rebounds, and Whittington knocked down two threes en route to eight points.
“I thought they played well,” Thompson said of the freshmen. “They all do things—they all can defend, they all can make shots. They give you different things. It’s not about just putting the ball in the basket.”
On such an inexperienced team, the play of those lengthy freshmen may ultimately dictate the Hoyas’ success. But as long as Sims can stand tall in the paint like he did on Saturday, the underclassmen will have plenty of time to develop.