Men's Basketball

Tyus Battle continues maturation process as freshman season nears conclusion

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Tyus Battle has arguably the most diverse offensive arsenal of any of SU's players.

With two defenders closing in on his path to the basket, Tyus Battle didn’t have to think about his next move. He just reacted, improvising a jump move between Jordy Kuiper and Kyrin Galloway to plant himself under the basket for an and-1 layup.

Even the freshman was impressed with his own ad-libbing. He slapped the ball with one hand after the whistle and dropped a sly grin toward the Syracuse bench. Battle can’t draw an explanation for everything he does on the court, and that’s OK.

The Orange doesn’t mind in the slightest.

“That’s how you’re supposed to play basketball,” Battle said. “You’re supposed to react to what the defense is giving you and just try to make the right play.”

For the dynamic 6-foot-6 guard, that could mean going up for a quick 3 on the first possession of the game. It could mean zipping a half-court pass for a transition layup, or leaping between two defenders blocking his way to the paint. Battle’s shown he can do all of the above, and he did it all in top-seeded SU’s (19-14, 10-8 Atlantic Coast) 13-point win over eight-seeded UNCG (25-10, 14-4 Southern) on Wednesday night. As Syracuse extended its season at least another game — coming at home against Ole Miss at 11 a.m. on Saturday — there’s no reason to think Battle’s maturation won’t continue.

He tallied 20 against the Spartans, scoring at least that many points in three of the last four games. But more important, as the Orange prepares to lose up to three of its best players for a second year in a row, Battle’s fortified himself as SU’s best hope for next season.

The ball will be in his hands more than ever, an exciting possibility for a player as multi-faceted as Battle is.

“I don’t think he has one in particular,” Tyler Lydon said of Battle’s best attribute. “I think he has a few. His athleticism, his skill set, his ability to score, his mindset and everything.

“There’s a lot that goes into him.”

As a byproduct of that, there’s a lot that goes into a 20-point performance from Battle too. Where Andrew White might get to that number by exclusively hoisting 3s, Battle’s ability to score almost anywhere on the court is what makes him so good.

Only one of his seven 3-point attempts fell through on Wednesday, but he compensated by crashing the paint as aggressively as he has all season. Battle converted three and-1 layups against the Spartans, and the visitors weren’t committing soft touch fouls on the freshman.

Battle attacked three UNCG defenders under the basket to draw his first and-1, coaxed 6-foot-8 R.J. White into hacking him from behind as he laid in a second and-1, and the third came on that highlight-reel jump move.

“Those are moves I thought he would always do,” freshman Taurean Thompson said, “but his confidence is getting up. He’s always been the person that could score a couple and get going.

“It was real good seeing that move from him.”

Battle readily acknowledged there are some moves, for whatever reason, he won’t unveil at the beginning of a game. He has to build up to them, get in a groove and just react. It’s a process Battle’s expedited as he’s accrued more experience, but there’s still a way for him to go.

Thompson thinks his fellow freshman still relies too heavily on his jump shot. Battle knows he’d be better served to drive the paint even more than he’s started to. Syracuse coaches just want him to have the confidence to shoot more.

All together, there’s plenty for Battle to work on. As he reacts accordingly, his ceiling is only getting higher.

“He’s getting better this year,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’ll get better. They all do.”

Comments

Top Stories