There were a few too-close-for-comfort moments for the new-look Georgetown men’s basketball team early in the second half on Saturday. But Henry Sims and his teammates shook off their jitters and produced the outcome most had predicted: The Hoyas cruised past overmatched Savannah State, 83-54, in their season opener at Verizon Center.
Sims scored a career-high 19 points, Hollis Thompson had 13 points and Jason Clark scored nine points for Georgetown, which improved to 4-0 all-time against the Tigers and 51-0 against opponents from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Hoyas’ 66.7 percent shooting percentage, meanwhile, was the fourth-best single-game performance in Coach John Thompson III’s eight-year tenure.
“There were first-game jitters for all of us,” Thompson III said. “I was as nervous before this game as any I can remember, to tell you the truth. But we settled down in the second half.”
They did indeed, and not a moment too soon. Savannah State trimmed its deficit to 32-29 after a three-pointer, a Hoyas turnover and a Tigers layup in the opening seconds of the second half, prompting Thompson to call a timeout.
That was as close as the visitors would get. Georgetown turned up the pressure at the defensive end and Sims, Thompson and Clark sparked a 12-0 run that put the Hoyas ahead 44-29.
“I think it was intensity and effort,” said Thompson, who scored 10 of his points in the second half. “We started playing harder on the defensive end and that trickled over to offense.”
The crowd of 9,876 got its first look at the Hoyas’ touted freshman class, and the group did not disappoint. Forward Otto Porter led the way with nine points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, while forward Greg Whittington, the 2011 All-Met Player of the Year from Oakland Mills High School, had eight points. The Hoyas also got contributions from guard Jabril Trawick (five points) and forward Mikael Hopkins (four points).
The freshmen “played very, very well,” Thompson III said. “Greg has to get more rebounds, but they all do things. They all can defend. They all can make shots. They give you different things [more than just] putting the ball in the basket.”
Added Hollis Thompson: “I don’t think any of us were surprised. We’ve been with them in practice.”
What caught some by surprise, though, was Sims’s career day.
“I didn’t expect Sims to do much, based on what he’s done in the past,” said Tigers Coach Horace Broadnax, who was on the Hoyas’ 1984 NCAA championship team. “But the past don’t dictate the future. He’s a senior. He has to step up.”
When Sims was pulled from the game as time wound down, the 6-foot-10 center received a well-deserved standing ovation. In addition to scoring a career high in points — he had scored 12 twice previously — he also pulled down six rebounds, dished out five assists and blocked three shots.
Sims’s rebound and putback early in the second half put an exclamation point on the decisive run that turned a close game into a rout.
“I can’t remember,” Sims said, asked to recall the last time he received a standing ovation. “But it felt good, though. When you play hard, this is what happens.”