By Eric Myers
Tyus Battle, Syracuse’s leading scorer, was a game time decision Monday night’s annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but in the biggest stages, it was Battle who helped Syracuse (6-0) closed out Maryland (6-2) for a 72-70 victory at the Carrier Dome.
Battle, who suffered an apparent back injury in the Orange win over Toledo just five days ago, scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second half — including seven points in the final 64 seconds of the game.
Maryland was led by Clifton Park, New York native Kevin Huerter, who dazzled in his homecoming by scoring a game-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, and making seven of nine three-point attempts. His three-point shooting prowess on the night was not enough to overcome 18 turnovers and Maryland allowing 19 offensive rebounds.
Entering the game, head coach Mark Turgeon had to answer questions about his team’s ability to play against a zone, given the struggles with 20 turnovers and barrage of missed shots against St. Bonaventure’s 1-3-1 zone in the Terps’ first loss of the season.
Playing against the Orange patented 2-3 zone, Maryland attacked the zone with an inside-out approach which involves a playmaker around the free throw line making good decisions and compacting the defense. The Terrapins, however, struggled with entry passes into this area in the first half, resulting in 11 turnovers before halftime. Maryland was able to limit its miscues to a relatively low seven turnovers.
The game began as it would end, a closely contested affair. The teams traded baskets for the first 11 minutes, as no team’s advantage stretched beyond three points. Freshman center Bruno Fernando provided instant productivity off the bench, scoring eight points in just over a three-minute span to give the Terps a 25-24 lead.
Syracuse answered the freshman’s energy and productivity by scoring seven consecutive points to stake a six-point advantage. Huerter responded with one of his many momentum-altering three-pointers on the night to ignite an 8-0 run for Maryland, capped off by another Huerter three.
Syracuse took a 36-35 lead into the break after Battle found a wide-open Marek Dolezaj for a layup as the shot clock expired, which preceded a Maryland turnover as the first half clock expired.
The largest lead of the second-half for either team was four points as both teams failed to string together a run.
Huerter made a three-point shot from well beyond the three-point arc to put his team ahead 52-50 with just over 12 minutes. The Orange scored the next six points before yet another Huerter three pointer to get back within one.
With just under two minutes remaining in regulation and Maryland trailing by two points, Justin Jackson found Huerter in transition for a go-ahead three-point shot, giving the road team a 66-65 lead.
Battle’s three point basket from the corner off of an assist from Suitland, Maryland native Frank Howard would prove to be the deciding basket as Battle came through in the waning moments to fend off a late comeback attempt by Maryland as Huerter made a deep three point shot with seven seconds remaining to cut their deficit back down to one.
After Maryland lost Battle on the ensuing inbounds play, leading to a breakaway dunk, Anthony Cowan was fouled with Syracuse up by three. Cowan converted the first before purposefully missing the second, but Maryland was unable to corral the necessary offensive rebound.
Maryland will have the next four days off before returning home to open Big Ten conference play at the Xfinity Center on Friday night against the Purdue Boilermakers.