One of the biggest question marks that faces Syracuse this season is how new faces like freshman guard Tyus Battle will help the team build on its Final Four run.
Tuesday night, the future for the Orange and Battle became a little clearer. Leading the team with 16 points in 26 minutes of play, Battle helped the team surmount an early deficit and put away Indiana (Pa.) University in an 83-65 exhibition victory.
“He had a good first half. He was real good. He was the only guy that got it going for us,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s a gamer, he’s going to play that way.”
The Orange struggled in the opening half, with Indiana up by 15 during the first 5 minutes of play. At that point, Boeheim changed out his entire line, giving Battle his first minutes on the court. A little over a minute later, he scored the first points of his collegiate career.
With an assist from John Gillon, Battle got an open look for a 3 to get the Orange going. However, that was just the beginning for Battle. He went into intermission with a team-high 13 points.
“We didn’t get off to a good start for a few reasons. I thought we battled back really well. When you get down 15 in the first game, you can get scared of that,” Boeheim said. “They battled back… we got some good play out of the two freshmen (Battle and Taurean Thompson).”
“I think he did well. He obviously went in and was confident,” Andrew White said of Battle. “When you come into your first game, especially as a freshman, there is nothing better than hitting your first shot or two, and I think he got some good wide open looks to calm him down and get himself going.”
After the half, Battle’s hot beginning cooled. In his 12 minutes on the floor, he only managed another 3 during the closing minutes of the game.
But Battle still looked to be an energetic and composed presence on the court. At one point, Battle lost his right shoe. Unshaken, the freshman played through three possessions before he was able to retrieve his missing footwear.
“Just stay aggressive, take good shots, and get my teammates the ball,” Battle said when asked about how he can help the team. “Once we started swinging the ball, we got a lot of open shots, and that’s what opened up the lead for us.”
“You can just see he has a lot of natural talent,” White said. “That’s a guy that I love to compete with every day.”
Though it is early in the season, Battle may be the spark that Orange need after losing three of their top scorers at the end of last season. Right now, though, Battle is just excited to be at Syracuse.
“I can’t wait. The first game is going to be amazing,” Battle said. “We’ve got the best fans in the world, and I think we are going to have a really good team this year.”