If you don’t love college basketball after that game, I don’t know what can make you happy on this planet.
John Gillon was the hero who sent the Duke Blue Devils back home with their heads down, but without Tyus Battle’s electrifying second half the Syracuse Orange would have been back in their locker-room sulking about another close, but sad, ending to an ACC game.
Battle finished the first half with four points on 1-for03 shooting as Duke’s defense found a way to cause the Orange’s offense to go stagnant. However, Syracuse found a way to get the ball moving in the second half as the ball found Battle in his sweet spot time and time again.
Battle’s second half was showcased by multiple isolations as Duke switched the pick and role, allowing Battle to be guarded by one of Duke’s big men. Battle took this to his advantage as his quickness outweighed the size of Duke’s defenders, allowing for Battle to create enough space to get open jump shots—and today, they decided to go in.
“I was just being aggressive trying to find my shot,” Battle said on what changed for him in the second half. “Once I saw I had an isolation with one guy guarding me it was just one-one-one from there, and I’m pretty confident in those situations.”
No big on Duke could stay in front of the quick first step Battle showed tonight as his step back became his go-to move going down the stretch. In a game where Syracuse’s top two scorers struggled from the field, Battle was the perfect complement for Gillon’s historic performance.
“The second half I thought Tyus really just attacked,” coach Jim Boeheim said on what changed for his team in the second half. “He had a stretch there, when we were really struggling, where he made some unbelievable plays.”
Battle’s energy and efficiency kept the Orange in it as they stormed back from their eight-point deficit coming into the second half. In a game where Syracuse surprisingly shot only 11 threes, Battle helped create offense off the dribble which created space for his teammates and himself.
Everyone can take a breath now, including Tyus. That game will forever go down as an instant classic in Syracuse history and Battle, a freshman, made his name known for a long time with his performance.
The Orange need to keep this excitement going for their final two games of the year, and if Battle can make plays like he did tonight, Syracuse may be able to keep their season going, just long en even longer than we’d assumed.