The Syracuse men’s basketball team came out flat to begin its first game in a 2016-2017 campaign packed with expectations. About six minutes into the Orange’s preseason opener against Division II Indiana (Pa.), Jim Boeheim’s team trailed, 20-5. That’s when freshman guard Tyus Battle came to the rescue.
Battle, who had spent barely a minute on the floor after coming off the bench, drilled a three-pointer that sparked a 27-9 run. That hot stretch gave Syracuse its first lead since the score was 2-0, and Battle was the catalyst, draining five buckets (three triples) and scoring nearly half (13) of the Orange’s points. SU carried the strong play into the second half, and cruised to an 83-65 win.
Battle finished with 16 points on 6-10 shooting (4-5 from beyond the arc), two assists, and a pair of steals. He was extraordinarily efficient; the New Jersey native’s effective field goal percentage — which adjusts for the fact that a three-pointer is worth more than a two-pointer — was 80 percent. For some context, the national leader in eFG last season was Belmont’s Evan Bradds, who checked in at 71.7 percent (the second-best, Venky Jois of Eastern Washington, finished below 68 percent).
It was only one game, and it came against a team whose talent level doesn’t hold a candle to those of ACC rosters, but Battle’s immense scoring ability was impossible to miss. Plus, the three-point line won’t be farther away from the hoop when the Orange gets into conference play, so it’s safe to assume that his long-range marksmanship is here to stay.
That’s a tremendous sign for Battle’s outlook, because it means there aren’t really any holes in his game. Before his senior season in high school, the biggest knock on the five-star recruit was that he couldn’t consistently knock down perimeter jumpers; he has since turned that weakness into a clear strength.
The exhibition game, which SU controlled throughout the entirety of the second half, didn’t require Battle to showcase his skills inside the arc — the freshman’s only two deuces were an open layup underneath the basket off a nice feed from fellow diaper dandy Taurean Thompson, and a smooth, one-dribble pull-up jumper from a few feet behind the free-throw line. In closer contests, expect Battle to attack the basket more frequently, which should open passing lanes he can exploit with his stellar vision.
Battle’s performance against IUP was a microcosm of his role on this Syracuse team — when the Orange is floundering, the 6-foot-6 guard arrives to save the day. Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, and Malachi Richardson accounted for nearly 63 percent of SU’s points last year. When all three left the team, Boeheim needed someone to pick up the scoring slack. After one game, it looks like he found that guy. His name is Tyus Battle.