Henry Sims has emerged as one of the nation’s biggest surprises this season, not to mention one of No. 12 Georgetown’s most productive players. But, as his struggles Wednesday at Syracuse proved, the first-year starter has lessons still to learn.
Sims made a layup about five minutes into the 64-61 overtime loss to the Orange. He then spent the next 35 minutes trying unsuccessfully to score again. In all, he missed 11 of 12 shots and finished with six points, his lowest output in the Hoyas’ 12 Big East contests.
“It was a frustrating game for me overall, but [missing layups] was especially frustrating,” the 6-foot-10 senior center said after Friday’s practice at McDonough Gym. “I was mad at the moment, but you can’t dwell on it. The best thing I can do is go in the gym and put up some more shots and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Ensuring it doesn’t happen again, Coach John Thompson III said, will depend on getting Sims to understand how to adjust to poor shooting performances during games.
“As a player, [when] you miss a shot, you’ve been programmed since you were six years old, ‘Ah, good players come back and take and make the next shot,’ ” Thompson said. “In a lot of situations in that game, the next play was not to take the next shot, it was to make the pass.”
Sims is Georgetown’s third-leading scorer at 11.6 points per game and the team’s best facilitator, averaging 3.6 assists.
“It’s understanding, when I’m having a bad day, what are we trying to accomplish, as opposed to getting caught up in what’s going on with me right now,” Thompson added. “That’s the main teaching point for Henry.”
When the Hoyas (18-5, 8-4 Big East) host St. Johns (10-14, 4-8) on Sunday, it will be critical that Sims regains confidence in his shot. But it will be just as important that Sims and his teammates continue their strong play at the defensive end against a reeling Red Storm team that’s lost two in a row, is ranked second-to-last in the Big East in field goal percentage (42.4) and is down to six scholarship players after junior guard Malik Stith withdrew from the team this week amid dwindling playing time.
Georgetown is giving up 58.8 points per game, the best mark in the Big East and an 8.3-point improvement over last season. The Hoyas also are limiting opponents to 38.8 percent shooting, which is fourth best in the conference. Both figures rank third in Thompson’s eight-year tenure. (They held foes to 36.6 percent in 2007-08 and 38.3 percent in 2006-07.)
“We have more guys who can guard different positions than we did last year,” Thompson said. “And, just in general, this team, for the most part, with a few lapses throughout the season, enjoys the notion that we’re making it difficult for the opposition to score. We’re embracing defense.”
Thompson has utilized a zone scheme more this season to better leverage his taller and more athletic personnel. And, with a few exceptions, it’s been relatively impenetrable.
One of those exceptions, though, came in the Hoyas’ 69-49 win over the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 15. In that game, 6-foot-8 St. John’s swingman Moe Harkless had a game-high 21 points before he fouled out with 5 minutes 15 seconds remaining as the Red Storm attempted to rally from an eight-point deficit.
“He got in our zone, got in the middle and had his way a little bit,” Sims said. “So we plan on tightening up our zone.”
When the conversation returned to Syracuse, Sims conceded that he’s had a hard time thinking about his performance in his final trip to the Carrier Dome. But he also acknowledged that there’s only one way to forget about it.
“Against St. John’s,” he said, “we’re going to have to come out with some fire in us.”
Hoyas note: Assistant coach Kenya Hunter was released from the hospital Thursday after collapsing at the conclusion of Tuesday’s practice. “The doctors ran tests and we’re just trying to figure out exactly what happened,” Thompson said Friday.