Tyus Battle keeps Syracuse within striking distance of Duke in 69-65 loss

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 24, 2018 at 3:58 am Contact Charlie: csdistur@syr.edu | @charliedisturco OMAHA, Neb. — Seven seconds remained on the clock as Tyus Battle stepped to the free-throw line. The Orange trailed by three, its season quickly falling out of reach.In that moment, Battle had an opportunity to pull the Orange within one against conference rival and brute Duke. The sophomore had kept SU within striking distance all game on the back of his 3-point shooting and passing. Now, here he was, possibly taking his last pair of free throws in an Orange uniform.Battle released his first free throw. It bounced off the rim and to the floor. He dropped his head, knowing the game was over. Though he made the second free throw, Duke would extend its lead to two possessions on the following play. And six seconds later, the buzzer sounded as No. 11 seed Syracuse’s (23-14, 8-10)  run came to an end against No. 2 seed Duke (29-7, 13-5), 69-65, on Friday night at CenturyLink Stadium. When SU had trailed by seven at the half, the margin was single digits because of Battle. And as the comeback ensued, it was Battle again.“Battle is one of the best players in the country,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “And I thought he really kept them in the game in the first half. And he’s poised. He’s a big-time player.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAlexandra Moreo | Senior Staff PhotographerAll season long, Battle has been the leader on a Syracuse team that’s had a turbulent season, one that led to the Orange being the last team in. He’s played 39 or more minutes in all but two games since December and has taken the bulk of the shots, especially down the wire. Just last game, he scored 16 second-half points and had the step back jumper and a pair of free throws to lift the Orange to a 55-53 upset over No. 3 seed Michigan State. But in the two games prior to Duke, Battle struggled to heat up in the first half. He shot a combined 1-for-11 before using a strong second half to lead SU in back-to-back upsets. That changed Friday night.Two minutes in, Frank Howard caught a pass in the high post. He quickly found Battle who drilled the 3. In the previous 40 first-half minutes, he had just three points. All it took was one shot to tie that skid.Over the next 18 minutes, Battle added two more 3s, a floater and found Paschal Chukwu for an alley-oop over Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. Unlike the last two games, Battle said he was releasing the ball higher, which resulted in a better shooting performance — 50 percent from the field. He also credited freshman Marek Dolezaj, whose screens helped open up enough room for a pair of 3s. It was a much-needed performance for Battle, especially with his two main counterparts, Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett, struggling. The two combined for four points on 1-of-12 shooting and four turnovers. “That’s our main scorer on the team. We want him to take those shots and get over our offensive slumps,” Brissett said. “… Today he was hot so we just kept on giving him the ball, kept on letting him do his thing.”Battle’s success carried over into the second half. On one play, he spun between a collapsing Trevon Duval and Marvin Bagley III before letting off a floater that went over the outstretched arms of Carter Jr. The ball swished through the net as the referees blew their whistle to call a foul.Though he only scored eight points in that half, he distributed the ball into the paint often. Battle continuously worked the ball to Dolezaj who consistently made turnaround jumpers. As the final buzzer sounded, Battle hunched over. His team-high 19 points and five assists helped Syracuse keep the game within one possession until the final seconds. But he couldn’t lift SU over Duke like he had over the previous three opponents. After the initial press conference, Battle walked into the locker room and was swarmed by reporters. A few questions were asked before one reporter brought up Battle’s plans for the future. The sophomore’s stock had jumped since the Tournament’s start and he had been featured in mock drafts.Battle shook his head and said he has yet to consider it. But he wouldn’t confirm that he’d return, like his teammate Brissett had. “I don’t even know,” he said. “It’s so early to even decide what I’m gonna do.”At least for now, Battle is still Syracuse’s leader. The one that has carried the team through the highest highs like upsetting Michigan State, and the lowest low like losing to a Matt Farrell-and Bonzie Colson-less Notre Dame team. He’s one of the main reasons Syracuse got this far. And a big factor in why Orange had a chance to upset the Blue Devils. But the magic had run out. Commentslast_img read more