Taking the court against Maryland, Tyus Battle also took on an additional opponent: injury.
Battle’s health remained a question in the lead-up to Syracuse’s matchup in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Less than a week after a hard fall sidelined him during the second half of a win against Toledo, Battle entered the Maryland game, determined to play.
“I made sure I could come out here and play, I knew I was going to play,” Battle said. “I told [Boeheim] I’m fine to play…I knew I wasn’t going to sit out for this one.”
Battle helped the Orange secure a 72-70 win over the Terrapins, but it was far from an easy win.
During much of the first half, Battle appeared limited by the injury to his back. Scoring just five points and shooting only 1-4 from beyond the arc, the sophomore did not play at his usual caliber.
At one point, Battle returned to the sidelines in apparent discomfort. Standing until he subbed back in, Battle remained determined to continue playing.
“[Battle] said he could play, he didn’t look right, but when a player says he can play, I’m going to play him,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Obviously we want him in the game. In the end, he made the last seven points. He’s our best player. He’s got to be in the game if he’s able to play.”
During the second half, Battle began to return to form. Though still limited, his mobility and shooting percentage increased as the half wore on.
“It was tough for me to make plays off the dribble. Explosiveness, stopping, and jumping off this foot and everything else [were difficult],” Battle said. “I fought through it, my teammates stepped up today, and it was a great win.”
Battle’s teammates came through in critical moments throughout the game. Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard had strong showings, with 15 points each. Howard also served up key assists to Battle during the closing minutes of the game.
With 1:04 to play, the Orange were down a point when Howard found Battle for an open 3, giving Syracuse 68-66 lead. With five seconds left, Howard fed Battle the ball for a dunk that served as an exclamation point in the Orange victory.
“I knew he was hurt and didn’t really know what to expect,” Howard said. “He has to take over games like that and he will. I’m proud of him. He fought through that all week… tonight was a special night.”
Despite a slow start, Battle ultimately finished the night with a team-high of 18 points, with two from beyond the arc.
Syracuse will have several days off before it faces its next opponent, Kansas. The time off will benefit Battle as it gives him time physically and mentally to prepare for the next challenge to face the Orange.
“The next few days will be more rehabbing and watching film on Kansas,” Battle said. “It definitely helps to understand what Kansas does and to continue rehab. I’ll be ready to go against Kansas.”