first_img Published on January 23, 2019 at 11:45 pm Contact Charlie: [email protected] | @charliedisturco Comments When Frank Howard checked out against Pittsburgh on Jan. 19, freshman Jalen Carey didn’t jog to the scorer’s table like he used to earlier in the season. Instead, Syracuse opted to slide Tyus Battle to play point guard.The position shift doesn’t change Battle’s game — he just takes the ball up the court. But it’s allowed Syracuse to add an extra shooter to its sometimes stagnant offense while spacing the floor. Rather than using a true point guard, Battle is often paired with Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes, the Orange’s two best outside shooters. It was a new offensive look from the Orange (13-5, 4-1 Atlantic Coast), one that wasn’t successful early in the season with the absence of Howard, but it’s become a new go-to lineup in conference play.“The one advantage from Frank being out is Tyus learned how to play the point,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “And we did the same things we did at Duke. We just let him have the ball right away. That way, they can’t keep him from getting that.”Battle’s first experience as Syracuse’s point guard came in the season opener. Howard suffered a lower leg injury in preseason, missing the Orange’s first four games. Carey started in his absence, but against a high-pressure Connecticut defense, it was often Battle that ran point.SU struggled without Howard and dropped back-to-back games against UConn and Oregon. The offense shot a combined 22 percent from 3, and scoring was limited. Carey, who still played alongside Battle, averaged 20 points in 37 minutes per game, but had eight turnovers and one total assist in both matchups.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHoward’s return still led to mixed results for Syracuse’s offense, but it began to take a step forward. Carey went back to being a reserve, and Battle slid to his normal spot on the wing.Slowly, though, Carey’s minutes regressed as Howard reached full health. In limited minutes, the No. 38 recruit still battled turnover problems while Buddy found his stroke.Buddy’s recent hot-streak added another valuable threat to a Syracuse offense that has had trouble shooting 3-pointers all season. He struggled to start the season, shooting 8-for-36 from 3 through SU’s nonconference schedule (22.2 percent). But since conference play started, his shot — which assistant coach Gerry McNamara likened to that of NBA all-star Klay Thompson — has broken through.Good shooting practices translated into a 4-for-5 performance from beyond the arc against Pittsburgh on Jan. 19. Buddy’s scoring has led to an uptick in playing time for the freshman, who is shooting at a 50-percent clip from 3 in ACC play.It soon became a two-man battle for extra playing time — between Buddy and Carey. Battle barely left the court — he’s sat just seven minutes through five conference games thus far. And with Howard, Oshae Brissett and Hughes playing large stretches, Buddy and Carey have fought for the remaining time.Buddy has played 20 more minutes than Carey since conference play started, though Boeheim said his decision changes based on SU’s needs. Fifty-nine seconds into Syracuse’s matchup with Duke, Howard picked up two fouls. A minute later, he was subbed out for Carey who turned the ball over twice in 30 seconds. Boeheim was forced to sub back in Howard. Later, when the senior was struggling with three fouls, Buddy replaced him, and Battle played point.Molly Bolan | Staff Photographer“I’m just trying to be aggressive, looking for my shot more,” Battle said of his recent success as a point guard. “… Just look for my shot, look for my open teammates and try and make plays.”Battle picked up two quick assists when he was slotted at the point. He attacked RJ Barrett, whether it was a stepback jumper or inside the paint. He made seven-straight free throws, scoring 20 of Syracuse’s 48 first-half points. Buddy added a 3, too.The next game, against Pittsburgh, Carey never saw the floor, beginning the trend of Battle running the point with shooters surrounding him.“(Battle) was trying to run the team earlier in the year,” Boeheim said. “Now he’s just trying to take advantage.”Boeheim said the Orange needed a shooter against the Panthers, leading to Carey’s lack of playing time. Add Battle’s previous experience at the point earlier this season, and it was a smooth transition. Using the trio of Battle, Buddy and Hughes up top stretches the defense out thin and allows Battle to do what he does best: drive and score inside the arc.Since balancing both roles, Battle has arguably strung together his best week of the season. The junior picked up his third ACC Player of the Week award, the most of any player this year. He scored 32 points in a monumental upset over then-No. 1 Duke and followed it up with 22-point showing against Pittsburgh — after missing his first five shots.“Early in the season, when I was up top with the ball, I wasn’t looking for my shot as much,” Battle said. “I know I am a scorer, and I have to be aggressive.”Battle said he doesn’t change his approach when running point. Instead of looking to pass first, his scoring mentality is still intact. Drives inside the paint come often.But now Battle has two spot-up shooters waiting for him on the wing if the defense converges in the paint.center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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