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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017 at 1:15 am

Battle Carries Men’s Basketball to Victory over Maryland

By Chris Thomsen

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It didn’t look like Tyus Battle had a game-winning performance in him. The sophomore scored just five points in the first half while shooting 2-for-7. After suffering a back injury against Toledo on Wednesday, he opened the game poorly and struggled to play his typical style.

“It was tough for me to make plays out there tonight,” Battle said. “Explosiveness, stopping and jumping were difficult.”

But with under a minute left on the clock, those feelings subsided when fellow guard Frank Howard found Battle open in the corner. SU’s leading scorer elevated and splashed the three as a Maryland defender dove towards him.

Battle’s three-pointer gave the Orange a two-point lead over Maryland. The guard added two free throws and a breakaway dunk (due to the Terrapins’ poor full-court press) before the final buzzer, scoring Syracuse’s final nine points in its 72-20 win over Maryland.

SU only earned its sixth win due to the heroics of its “best player,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.

“He was probably 50 percent tonight,” Boeheim said, “but he made that play and then he made his free throws and we got that break against the press.”

Battle came alive at the end, scoring the final nine points for the Orange, but much of his game was a struggle. For the first twenty-five minutes, his teammates proved SU wasn’t a one-man band.

Howard had a breakout game, nearly earning a triple-double with 15 points, 10 assists and seven steals. Oshae Brissett grabbed 13 boards while chipping in 15 points himself. And Marek Dolezaj provided 10 points off the bench. More importantly though was his strong interior defense after Bourama Sidibe fouled out with six minutes left in action. He crashed the glass and used his length to keep Maryland out of the paint

The most remarkable performance of the night came from the Terrapins’ Kevin Huerter who made seven of his nine attempted threes. The Albany native forced Syracuse to stretch its two-three zone, especially late in the game.

After Battle hit two free throws to give Syracuse a 70-66 lead with 13 seconds left, SU swarmed the guard from the inbound. Nevertheless, Huerter threaded through the Orange and nailed a deep three with seven seconds left on the clock.

But UMD’s momentum wouldn’t last for long. Battle sealed the win by breaking Maryland’s full-court press immediately, catching the Hail Mary pass from Howard and slamming it home to seal SU’s sixth win of the season.

“He said he could play,” Boeheim said. “He didn’t look right but when a player says he can play, I am going to play him.”

Fans were worried that Battle wouldn’t start the game. But he certainly finished strong.