WASHINGTON (AP) - Following a difficult summer that included a headline-grabbing brawl in China and the departures of three valuable seniors, Georgetown opened its low-expectations season by beating Savannah State 83-54 Saturday behind Henry Sims' career-high 19 points.
Sims is one of two seniors on Georgetown's roster. The Hoyas are a young bunch - 10 sophomores or freshmen - and new recruits Otto Porter and Greg Whittington combined for 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Porter had eight rebounds.
Savannah State kept things close for a while, before the Big East's Georgetown improved to 51-0 against opponents from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Georgetown led by only three points in the opening minute of the second half, 32-29, when coach John Thompson III called timeout. From there, the Hoyas went on a 20-2 run.
Deric Rudolph led Savannah State with 12 points.
The Tigers are coached by Horace Broadnax, who played for Thompson's father at Georgetown and was a member of the Hoyas' 1984 NCAA championship team.
The 6-foot-10 Sims had his way inside against the shorter Tigers, whose tallest player is 6-8. Sims never had scored more than 12 points for Georgetown; he left Saturday to a standing ovation with 4:05 left.
Hollis Thompson - no relation to the coach - added 13 points for Georgetown, which made 67 percent of its shots and hosts UNC Greensboro on Monday.
Nate Lubick's eight points and five assists included the highlight of the afternoon: a no-look, behind-the-back pass along the baseline to Hollis Thompson to set up a three-point play that made it 49-31 with about 13 1/2 minutes remaining.
After regularly earning a spot in The Associated Press Top 25 poll in recent years, Georgetown did not receive a single vote in this year's preseason rankings.
That could be because the Hoyas have lost their opening NCAA tournament game two years in a row, plus seniors Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Julian Vaughn are gone. That trio accounted for 54 percent of the scoring and 61 percent of the assists a season ago. In addition, two key reserves transferred: Jerrelle Benimon and Vee Sanford.
Thompson III had hoped an offseason tour of China would help his large group of freshmen gain traction, and provide plenty of time together for a generally inexperienced bunch. He had no idea, of course, that trip would include a fight against a Chinese team during a game in Beijing.
Saturday's matchup represented quite a step up for the Tigers, who began last season by beating Brewton Parker College, an NAIA school, then losing 13 consecutive games.
Georgetown held Savannah State to 8-of-27 shooting - about 30 percent - in the first half while building a 32-24 lead. The Hoyas went up by as many as 11 points before halftime, but the game was tighter than that for the most part.
The visitors made only three of their first 15 field-goal attempts, but Rudolph's pairs of 3-pointers on successive trips down the court pulled Savannah State within 16-14. With about three minutes left in the half, Patrick Hendley's jumper made Savannah State's deficit a manageable 25-21.
But Georgetown responded with a 7-0 run, including two layups by Porter, to go up 32-21, before a closing-seconds 3 by Rudolph.
All of 37 seconds into the second half, Thompson III was asking for a timeout, then jabbing his right index finger in the air while giving his players a talking-to. That's because the score suddenly was 32-29 after the half began with another 3 from Rudolph, a turnover by Sims, and a layup by SSU's Joshua Montgomery.
But about three minutes later, it was Broadnax calling timeout amid 12 points a row for Georgetown - a spurt that featured five baskets by five players, gave the Hoyas a 44-29 edge, and drained any remaining doubts about the final outcome.