Tyus Battle’s career high leads Syracuse over Iona
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — It took a while for Syracuse’s leading man to get going, but when he did there was no stopping him.
Tyus Battle scored a career-high 28 points, including 23 in the second half, two other Syracuse players scored in double figures and the Orange held off Iona 71-62 on Tuesday.
Frank Howard had 15 points and Oshae Brissett chipped in with 12 for Syracuse (2-0). Paschal Chukwu had 10 rebounds.
Rickey McGill led Iona (0-2) with 21 points, including five 3-pointers. Deyshonee Much and Zach Lewis had 13 and 11 points, respectively. The Gaels hit 10 3s in the game.
“He’s hard to guard, he’s hard to guard,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of his sophomore guard Battle. “He took over the game.”
Battle’s play didn’t surprise his coach.
“At the end of the year he was playing just like this, but he’s more confident, he’s stronger, and he knows he’s gotta go,” Boeheim said. “Last year we had options. Now he’s the main guy. Tyus made the plays that had to be made.”
Battle fully grasps his role on this freshmen-laden, largely inexperienced team.
“I have a different role this year compared to last year. Last year we had a lot of different guys, a lot of different scorers. This year, I know my defined role, what I have to do for this team to win — just be aggressive and make things happen,” he said.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean score — just make something happen.”
Make things happen he did. He finished 11-for-19 from the field, including 2-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Brissett scored on a jumper after intermission and then Battle scored 10 straight points, the final two on a driving layup, to give Syracuse a 44-39 lead. He also scored eight of the team’s final 15 points, including consecutive jumpers with a little more than five minutes to go after Iona had narrowed the deficit to 56-54.
Battle’s first points of the half gave Syracuse its largest lead, 36-28 with a little more than 18 minutes to play, but the Gaels answered on two consecutive 3s by McGill in a 33-second span. The Orange regained an eight-point lead on two other occasions, but Syracuse couldn’t shake the Gaels, who were kept in the game by McGill’s 5-of-9 shooting from 3.
Consecutive jumpers by Battle, a free throw by Bourama Sidibe and offensive rebound and put-back basket by Marek Dolezaj pushed Syracuse’s margin to 63-54. Another Battle jumper and a second put back by Dolezaj extended the lead to 67-57. Battle followed with a slam to close out his scoring.
“He (Battle) has that, anytime,” Howard said. “He can change the game with his scoring ability and his talent. He told me when the half started that he wanted the ball so we got it to him and he did his thing.”
“Battle had a hell of a game,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said. “Whenever they needed a big basket, he was able to get it.”
Syracuse led 32-28 at halftime.
Iona: This isn’t the start the Gaels were looking for. Things don’t get easier for Iona - four more road games before heading home. McGill followed an off-night against Albany with a great effort.
Syracuse: This was a solid win for the Orange. Iona, favored to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, served as a good test for Jim Boeheim’s squad, and they passed with flying colors. Battle was the leading man, and he’ll have to be all season.
THROWING HIS WEIGHT AROUND
Syracuse’s Marek Dolezaj is a string bean at 6-foot-9, 180 pounds, but he had two crucial put backs and six rebounds in all.
THAT’S A STAT
Syracuse’s Paschal Chukwu made his first free throw in a college game since March 12, 2015, when he was a member of the Providence Friars.
Iona’s six-game, season-opening road odyssey continues Friday against Weber State in the Island of Bahamas Classic.
Syracuse’s seven-game, season-opening home stand continues Saturday against Texas Southern