MEN'S BASKETBALL | Frontcourt Dominates in Georgetown Victory
Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 12:03
NEW YORK — There's a reason they call it Big Man U.
Fifth-seeded Georgetown showed off the two latest additions to its legacy of outstanding post players Wednesday afternoon, as senior center Henry Sims and freshman forward Otto Porter turned in dominant performances in a 64-52 dismantling of 13th-seeded Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden.
Sims celebrated his recent naming to the all-Big East third team by racking up 20 points, 12 rebounds and five assists against the overmatched Pitt frontline. Porter, who was left off the conference's all-rookie team, added 20 points and six rebounds in the Hoyas' first postseason win since the 2010 Big East tournament.
The impressive efforts in the trenches made the Blue and Gray offense surprisingly effective on a night in which senior guard Jason Clark and junior forward Hollis Thompson — the team's top perimeter scoring threats — combined for 10 points on 1-of-10 shooting.
"On any given night on this team, anybody can step up," Sims said. "Tonight it happened to be me and Otto. Tomorrow night it could be Jason and Hollis."
The squads' last meeting, a late-January showdown in Pittsburgh, saw the unranked Panthers slice and dice the usually smothering Georgetown defense for 72 points on 52.1 percent shooting. Pitt's starting forwards, senior Nasir Robinson and sophomore Lamar Patterson, combined for 41 points on 15-of-17 shooting.
"That was a major focus, protecting the paint. ... Last time they had layups and dunks for almost all their points, so we made sure we held that to a minimum today." Sims said.
For awhile Wednesday, it looked as though the Hoyas might be in for another long day. Pitt senior guard Ashton Gibbs, the preseason pick for Big East player of the year, hit the ground running, carrying his squad to an early 19-13 lead. A few Georgetown defensive lapses brought back memories of the January game, as Pitt's forwards slipped through the zone for wide-open shots.
"We got off to a great start early," Pittsburgh Head Coach Jamie Dixon said. "I thought we got some touches inside, but as the game progressed we had less success getting inside and less success with the penetration."
But on the Big East's biggest stage, it was Georgetown's post men that delivered. The breakout senior star and the freshman phenom put on a low-post clinic, picking apart the Pitt frontcourt much as Robinson and Patterson had done to them earlier in the year. Porter scored 14 of the Hoyas' 16 points during one second-half stretch, with several easy buckets coming off pinpoint passes from Sims.
"[Sims] was very good today in terms of his effectiveness on the block, his effectiveness as a passer and his decision-making out there," Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said.
Georgetown is now 3-1 in the four games since Porter was inserted into the starting lineup in place of sophomore guard Markel Starks. The new lineup, which features only one player (Clark) shorter than 6-foot-8, has given opposing offenses fits, particularly when Thompson III elects to play zone. Freshman forward Greg Whittington came off the bench to score 11 points and wreak havoc at the top of the Hoyas' zone.
"[Georgetown's length] was a big problem for us," Robinson said. "We were going in there, shooting against two and three guys. ... They were more physical than us."
Thompson III will need his smothering zone to be similarly effective this afternoon, as the Blue and Gray take on fourth-seeded Cincinnati in the conference quarterfinals. The Bearcats (21-9), the only team to beat the Hoyas at Verizon Center this season, managed to steal the tournament's coveted double-bye from under Georgetown's nose on the last day of the regular season.
Sims will have his hands full with senior forward Yancy Gates, who is averaging 11.8 points and 9.4 rebounds on the year. If Thompson III elects to play man, Clark will likely earn the unenviable task of chasing around sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick, who leads the league in three-point shooting and lit up the Hoyas for 27 points in their last meeting.
In the Big East tournament, there's no time to bask in any victory. But Georgetown can certainly feel good about its performance Wednesday, particularly in the paint. And Sims — who, prior to this week, had five combined points in his Big East tournament career — has no desire to go home early.
"Last year we had an early exit, and me and Jason talked and we didn't want that to happen this year," Sims said. "I did my best to make sure that didn't happen today."