SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Texas Southern coach Mike Davis knew what was coming, but his team couldn’t do anything about it.
Tyus Battle picked up two fouls and scored just five first-half points. But just like he did against Iona in the team’s previous game, Syracuse’s leading man again came up big in the final 20 minutes.
Battle scored 21 points, Geno Thorpe added 13, and Syracuse (3-0) went on a 29-6 halftime-spanning run to defeat Texas Southern (0-4) 80-67 on Saturday night. As part of that run, the Orange scored the first 15 second-half points as Battle scored 14 points in the first eight-plus minutes after the break.
“We definitely thought we were in great shape, but we knew that he had scored 23 against Iona in the second half, so we knew that was coming,” Davis said. “It’s all about preventing it, and we couldn’t prevent it. You’d like to have little lead with him being out so much of the first half, unfortunately we didn’t.”
Battle, who scored 23 second-half points against Iona, finished 6 of 10 from the field and 3 of 6 from 3.
“I was just trying to be aggressive, stay aggressive and attack,” Battle said. “Luckily the basketball went in. That’s usually my mindset — attack.”
Battle felt he had to get things going after spending much of the first half in a very unusual place for him - the bench.
“It bothered me. I’m not really used to that (sitting). It definitely bothered me, but it happens I had to get it going in the second half.”
Fortunately for the Orange, Thorpe came to the rescue, hitting 5 of 6 from the field in the first half, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.
“I just try to come in and bring energy on the defensive end,” Thorpe said. “Credit to my teammates —they found me for open shots and I just wanted to capitalize and knock them down.”
Frank Howard had 12 points and eight assists, Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj had career highs with 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Syracuse. Oshae Brissett had 10 rebounds for the Orange.
Donte Clark led the Tigers with 20 points. Robert Lewis scored 13, Trayvon Reed had 12 points, Kevin Scott added 11 and Derrick Bruce 10.
Lewis tied the game at 24-all on a floater, but the Orange outscored the Tigers 14-6 to close the half with a 38-30 lead, then scored the first 15 second-half points and led by double figures thereon. The Tigers took an early 7-2 lead as Syracuse missed its first seven shots, but Battle hit a 3 and then made two free throws before a layup by Sidibe gave the Orange their first lead about 4½ minutes in.
With the Tigers leading 20-18, Thorpe scored eight of Syracuse’s next 11 points - on two three 3-pointers and a floater - to give the Orange a 30-24 lead.
Battle had the crowd-pleasing play of the night. Forced to the baseline, he spun, faked a defender out of his sneakers and powered his way to a thunderous dunk.
In addition to his 10 points, freshman Marek Dolezaj snagged nine rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
Texas Southern: The Tigers gave Syracuse a game for much of the first half but Syracuse’s superior athletic ability took over. Things get even more difficult with a game against Kansas coming up. Coach Mike Davis will have to do his best to motivate the Tigers.
Syracuse: Geno Thorpe gave Syracuse a big boost in his first solid game for the Orange. His offense gives Syracuse another dimension.
The Tigers jump from the frying pan and into the fire as they head to Kansas Tuesday to face the No. 5 Jayhawks.
Syracuse has a strong test Monday at the Carrier Dome against Oakland. It would have been an even bigger challenge, however, Golden Grizzlies forward Jalen Hayes will be serving the last of a four-game suspension.
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