Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim had a straightforward message for Tyus Battle at halftime.
“You cannot play like this,” he told his star guard.
Little went right for the Orange in that first half against archrival Georgetown, as they went into the locker room down 35-22. For his part, Battle was just 1 for 8 from the field for five points, leading Boeheim to issue his challenge.
Battle immediately heeded the message, exploding for 21 second-half points, including the go-ahead basket with under 3 seconds left, as the Orange won the latest chapter in this historic rivalry, 72-71.
“He just stepped it up,” Boeheim said. “He had a monster second half.”
Battle finished with 26 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists, single-handedly shaking the Orange from the doldrums out of the break.
With just over a minute gone by in the second half, Syracuse slipped Battle to the left baseline for an open look at a 3. The junior guard showed no hesitation, swishing a 3-pointer to pull the Orange to within 37-25.
A few minutes later, a streaking Battle was fouled on the fast break, contorting his body to absorb contact from Josh LeBlanc while gracefully finishing a layup with his left hand. After the ball dropped through the hoop, Battle let his arms hang low as he gazed toward a frenzied Orange bench.
It was part of a 7-0 run that pulled SU to within three points.
With Battle percolating and the Orange crowd erupting, Syracuse went on another run, scoring 13 unanswered points, including a big 3 from forward Elijah Hughes, to put SU up 54-48 with 9:52 to go.
“We just saw a couple go in and once you see that it’s that much easier,” Hughes said. “Then the crowd got behind us and our confidence grew so it’s that much easier.”
Still, the outcome was in doubt until the final buzzer. Georgetown responded with a 6-0 run, and center Jessie Govan’s 3 from the left wing with 1:08 to go gave the Hoyas a 71-70 lead.
Georgetown had a chance to extend its lead with 10 seconds to go, but Jagan Mosely charged into Marek Dolezaj, giving the Orange possession and one final chance to win it.
That’s all the time Battle needed, as he raced the length of the court and using his signature hesitation dribble to shake free from Mosely, launching a shot from the right elbow extended with 2.8 seconds to go.
“I was trying to get an open look and I happened to get one,” Battle said. “It felt good when I let it go.”
He was right, and after Jahvon Blair’s half court heave clanked off the rim as time expired, Battle raised both his hands, knowing that he had just led the Orange to its seventh win of the season.
SU now leads the all-time series against the Hoyas 51-43.
“Georgetown’s a really good team, well coached, really good players,” Battle said. “It’s always fun to play in this rivalry.”