SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Tyus Battle was hurting, his lower back still stiff from a tumble in the previous game, and Syracuse had missed all four shots it had taken from long range in the second half of a tight game with Maryland.
And yet when Battle was all alone in the left corner as the final minute began on Monday night, Frank Howard didn’t hesitate to zip a pass his way, and the sophomore star drained the Orange’s only 3 of the period with 59 seconds left. The shot gave Syracuse a 68-66 lead and the Orange turned away the Terps 72-70 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“I wasn’t feeling too great out there,” said Battle, who scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half. “I had to gut it out. It’s all about heart. The team with the most heart gutted it out.”
Howard finished with 15 points, seven steals, and 10 assists with four turnovers for Syracuse (6-0), and freshman Oshae Brissett had 15 points and 13 rebounds, his second straight double-double and third of the season. Marek Dolezaj had 10 points and seven boards.
Kevin Huerter had 23 points to lead Maryland, going 7 of 9 from long range. Bruno Fernando had 13 points and Anthony Cowan 11.
Battle, the Orange’s leading scorer, suffered a bruise to his back in a win over Toledo on Wednesday night, but he shook off the injury and played 37 minutes Monday night.
“He (Battle) said he could play,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He didn’t look right, but when a player says he can play I’m going to play him. He’s our best player. He’s got to be in the game if he’s able to play.”
It was the first true road game of the season for Maryland (6-2), which was playing its third game in four nights and was coming off a two-point loss to St. Bonaventure on Friday night in the semifinals of the Emerald Coast Classic. The Terps squandered an eight-point, second-half lead in the loss to the Bonnies, but this game was tight throughout with 15 ties and 20 lead changes.
Brissett’s second 3-point play of the game gave the Orange a 63-61 lead with 4:33 left, and when Fernando made only 1 of 2 free throws the Orange maintained their slim lead.
Battle then hit a runner in the lane before Huerter drained his sixth 3, hitting from the top of the key to give Maryland a 66-65 lead with 1:43 left.
Battle responded with his key 3 to give Syracuse the lead for good and followed with two free throws. Maryland then fell prey to its glaring weakness, committing two turnovers, and the Orange barely escaped after Huerter sank his final 3 with 7.2 seconds left.
“We had the lead, we missed some free throws late, had a couple of turnovers late,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought we played with poise. They’re really good. They’re long and quick, they get hands on the balls and they make it difficult. I thought our guys battled, but right now we’re just not making enough plays at the end.”
The Terps kept the game tight throughout with efficient long-range shooting, hitting 11 of 23.
Maryland had outrebounded every team it had played and entered the game with a plus-14.7 rebounding margin to rank third nationally. The Orange outrebounded the Terps 39-33, 19-13 on the offensive glass.
“It’s frustrating,” said Huerter, a native of Clifton Park in upstate New York. “It’s bittersweet, but it’s not a good feeling losing any time. It doesn’t really matter how many points you score or how many shots you make.”
Maryland: The Terps have to take care of the ball better. One of their weaknesses has been turnovers — they entered the game with a minus-5.6 turnover margin — and they had 11 in the first half. The miscues cost them in this game, leading to 22 points for the Orange. Maryland finished with 22 assists on its 23 baskets against the Orange zone.
Syracuse: The Orange entered the game shooting 36.6 percent from behind the arc and struggled mightily. They went 2 of 13 in the first half and finished 3 of 18. Last year’s team relied on the 3-pointer, but this team is bigger and more suited to inside play. The Orange outscored Maryland 42-20 in the paint.
Maryland hosts Big Ten rival Purdue on Friday night.
Syracuse, which hits the road for the first time, plays No. 2 Kansas in the Hoophall Miami Invitational on Saturday.
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