In a season full of 20-point outputs, Tyus Battle’s most impressive to-date was Saturday’s effort against Georgetown. The Syracuse Orange sophomore had 29, including a 6-of-11 showing from three. He was far from the only clutch shooter down the stretch for SU, but his consistency helped push the team into overtime (and then to the seven-point win).
Through 10 games this season, Battle’s scored 20 or more seven times, and 25 or more in three of those. His 29 points against Georgetown were the third-most by a Syracuse player ever against the Hoyas -- behind Billy Owens (36 in 1990) and Carmelo Anthony (30 in 2003). Both of those games were also on the road, coincidentally.
Battle is currently averaging 21.5 points per game. And though the opponents certainly get tougher, he’s already shown himself capable of hanging with better teams this year. He scored 22 against both UConn and Kansas, and 18 vs. Maryland.
Should the 21.5 points hold, he’d be the first Orange player to score more than 20 points per game for a full season since Hakim Warrick put up 21.4 in 2004-05 (when he won Big East Player of the Year honors). It would be the most points per game since 2002-03, when Carmelo put up 22.2 per game.
Still, we’re a long way away from the end here. And we’ve seen impressive scorers fall short of the 20-point average before. Andrew White III finished with 18.5 last year, despite an impressive streak of scoring 20 or more during the season. Demetris Nichols hit 18.9 in 2006-07; a season in which he was pretty much allowed to shoot at will given the lack of other capable options on the roster.
Where Battle’s drive for 20 could get derailed is with the emergence of other scorers on this team. Going into 2017-18, we knew that Battle was our only sure-fire offensive weapon, so he’s largely had the green light. But Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett have also looked the part at times, even if not as consistently. Both are averaging over 14 points per game at the moment.
That might not be a bad thing for him or the team, however. Aside from the 2003 title team, recent successful Orange squads have been a bit more balanced. Michael Gbinije led the 2016 Final Four team with 17.5 points per game. C.J. Fair was 2013’s leader at just 14.5.
With a 2017-18 team predicated on defense, having a a 20-point scorer is good. But having three players average 14 or more per game is better. Battle’s at his best when there are other shooters on the floor too. But whether he ends up averaging 20 or not this season, we’re probably in for an interesting show from Battle the rest of the way.