When Georgetown is clicking on all cylinders, Henry Sims is indeed the center of attention.
Once again that held true as the 6-foot-10 center led three Hoyas in double figures during 13th-ranked Georgetown’s 64-52 second-round victory over Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament on Wednesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
“We’re pretty good when we get that kind of effort out of him, when he produces like he did today,” Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said about his senior center in the post game press conference.
Sims had 20 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists while Otto Porter provided a career-high 20 points and Greg Whittington chipped in with 11 points off the Hoyas bench.
Fifth-seeded Georgetown (23-7) advances to play fourth-seeded Cincinnati in a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday afternoon at approximately 2:30 PM. The Bearcats defeated the Hoyas 68-64 in the only meeting between the two teams this season at the Verizon Center.
Sims, one of only three upperclassman on the Hoyas roster, picked up the slack for both Jason Clark (0-4, three points) and Hollis Thompson (1-of-6, seven points) as the Baltimore native didn’t want his tournament to end after just like game like it did last season when the Hoyas lost to eventual champs Connecticut in the second-round.
“When it came to this tournament, you know, last year we had an early exit, and me and Jason talked and we didn’t want that to happen this year, and I did my best to make sure that didn’t happen today,” Sims said about last opportunity to play in the Big East Championships.
Ashton Gibbs (team-high 14 points) scored nine straight points to give the Panthers their biggest lead of the game at 19-13 and it was beginning to look like another possible Pittsburgh upset. The Panthers (17-16) used 52 percent shooting to upset the Hoyas on January 28.
Georgetown closed the first half on an 18-4 run to take a 31-23 lead into the half as the Panthers went over eight minutes without a field goal against the Hoyas length.
Pitt showed some life out of halftime by rattling off six straight points to narrow the gap at 31-29 causing Thompson III to make a change.
Thompson III’s answer to slow down the upset minded Panthers?
“Go back to the zone,” Thompson III plainly gave as his secret adjustment.
Whittington and Porter then each knocked down their second three-pointers of the night to push the lead back up to eight at 37-29.
Porter, who has now set career-highs in back-to-back games, scored 14 of Georgetown’s 16 points during a stretch the increased the Hoyas lead to double-figures for the first time at 50-39.
Georgetown made 13-of-17 second half free throws to ice the game away.
The Panthers will now miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in ten years. It had been the longest active streak in the Big East conference.
“I thought we defended pretty well but as the game progressed we continued to foul and then our attack against the zone just did not live up to what we needed to do,” Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said after the loss.
Pittsburgh made just 18-of-49 (37 percent) while the Hoyas hit 19-of-39 (49 percent).
Up Next: This will be the first ever meeting between Georgetown and Cincinnati in the Big East tournament. The Bearcats have never advanced to the semifinals since joining the league in 2006 while in contrast the Hoyas have been in three of the last five finals, winning it all in 2007.
Hoyas Notes: Georgetown now has 50 all-time wins in the Big East tournament. Earlier in the week Jason Clark earned First Team All-Big East honors while Henry Sims was named to the Third Team. Hollis Thompson was an honorable mention selection.