Think of Tyus Battle and John Gillon as Luke Skywalker and Yoda. No, it’s not because Gillon is listed at a generous 6-0 and used to wear green during his Colorado State days. Nor is it because Battle towers over his elder backcourt mate. Rather, Gillon is imposing his wisdom on Battle, and it showed in #18 Syracuse’s 90-46 rout of Holy Cross to advance the Orange to 2-0 on the young season.
Battle and Gillon played key parts in a game that played out like a varsity-JV scrimmage. Syracuse dominated from the opening tip until the final horn, allowing the walk ons nearly three minutes of floor time.
The guards wreaked havoc at the top of the zone all night. Battle and Gillon combined for five steals and helped hold the Crusaders to 23 points in each half. The pair simply seems to be on the same page, which is rare given their three year age gap.
“[Gillon and I] always have great chemistry on and off the court,” Battle said. “We worked together a lot during the summer and that just moved on and progressed to when we’re on the floor together. John’s a really good player as you can see and he has experience that I don’t have yet, so he really tries to share that with me.”
Likewise, Gillon shares that sentiment towards the freshman.
“Normally, Tyus is on my team in practice and that’s someone who I talk to a lot,” Gillon said. “We are always joking, talking trash to each other, so we have a pretty good relationship on and off the court.”
Offensively, Battle chipped in nine points, all of which came from behind the arc. After a stellar preseason, the freshman experienced some growing pains in his debut against Colgate, but Battle quickly corrected those shortcomings.
“[The biggest thing I’ve learned so far] is just to stay aggressive,” Battle said. “Don’t worry about the missed shots and stuff like that. Just keep playing your game and work on other things. If you’re missing shots, get rebounds, steals, stuff like that and just get your teammates involved.”
But it was Gillon who shined the brightest off the bench. The graduate transfer eclipsed double digit points (15) for the second straight game off the pine to go along with a game-high nine assists.
“I consider myself a playmaker,” Gillon said. “If they back off, I’m gonna shoot and I have confidence with my shot. My confidence in my teammates is really high and [my confidence] in my personal skills to make plays is really high.”
Despite Gillon and Battle’s monster efforts as reserves, they weren’t the bell cows for SU’s offense that put up its most points in regulation since 2013. That honor belonged to fellow newcomer Andrew White III. The Nebraska transfer tallied a season-high 19 points in just 25 minutes. White has been everything the Orange has expected and needed, especially from deep where he went 5-of-10. The college journeyman has played in three of the NCAA’s “Power Five” conferences, but believes this team is special.
“This is the best team that I have ever been on,” White said. “We have a lot of work to do, but I think our ceiling is so high just because we have a lot of players who can do a lot of different things. So I think the motivation every day is to just make sure that we’re improving and take care of our business so that we can be what we want to be at the end of the year.”
That’s high praise from a guy who played alongside budding NBA superstars Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid at Kansas.
While the Crusaders were not a team the Orange circled on their schedules, this team is firing on all cylinders despite five new faces contributing significant minutes. It’s only a matter of time until the real tests come, but the start is certainly promising.