Battle carries 'Cuse to 78-70 win over Wake Forest
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Tyus Battle missed a slam dunk early in the second half for Syracuse. He didn't miss much else against Wake Forest.
Battle scored 34 points, Oshae Brissett added 15 points and 10 rebounds, and the Orange held off the Demon Deacons 78-70 on Sunday.
The sophomore guard started the game by scoring Syracuse's first seven points, then after the break scored 24 on 6-for-8 shooting and made all 11 free throws he attempted to help the Orange (17-8, 6-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) to an important victory.
Battle hit two free throws with 27 seconds left and followed that with a fast-break slam 12 seconds later after a block by Paschal Chukwu to secure the win. Wake Forest (9-16, 2-11 ACC) had erased most of a 14-point deficit and pulled within 65-63 on a layup by Bryant Crawford with 4:24 left to set up a tight finish.
"They got really hot, but that says a lot about our team," said Battle, who missed that dunk on the Orange's second possession of the second half. "We knew they were going to make a run. Just had to keep on playing and weather their storm."
The Demon Deacons have won only twice since Dec. 18, but one of those victories came against Syracuse. Not on this day as the Demon Deacons fell to 0-7 on the road in conference play.
The difference in this one came at the free-throw line. Syracuse was 26 of 39 in an aggressive showing and Wake Forest 12 of 14 as the Demon Deacons were called for 26 fouls to 12 on the Orange. Battle alone attempted 13 free throws.
"We won this game because we got to the foul line 39 times, because we're driving the ball, making them commit fouls," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "If we made our free throws, we would have won by 10 or 12 points."
During Wake Forest's seven-game skid in January, four of the losses were by double-digit margins. The Demon Deacons made this one close but ran out of time.
"I thought in the second half we came out and did a much better job moving the basketball, creating shot opportunities," Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said. "That gave us a chance to get back into the game."
Frank Howard had 12 points and nine assists with one turnover and Chukwu had seven points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Orange.
Crawford led Wake Forest with 24 points, Doral Moore had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Mitchell Wilbekin had 13 points, all in the second half on 4-of-5 shooting from long range.
"I thought we did a better job of sharing the ball and also being aggressive," Wilbekin said. "A lot of times in that zone you get so passive. Wish we could have made a couple more. If we could play both halves like that, we would be OK."
After a miserable first half shooting from behind the arc, the Demon Deacons regrouped and torched the Orange for six 3-pointers in a span of just over three minutes to get back in a game they had trailed by 14 near the midpoint of the second half.
Wilbekin had four of the 3s and was fouled on the last one. His foul shot completed a four-point play and narrowed the Orange lead to 61-55 with 7:35 left.
A baseline runner by Keyshawn Woods, a slam dunk by Moore, and a layup by Crawford narrowed the gap to 65-63 with 4:19 to go.
Two free throws by Battle gave Syracuse a five-point lead with 3:15 left, but the Orange missed five straight free throws to give Wake Forest one more chance before Battle took charge in the final minute.
Wake Forest entered the game averaging a solid 38.5 percent on 3-pointers. Against the Orange, who ranked fourth in Division I in field-goal percentage defense (38.4 percent), the Demon Deacons experienced an ice-cold first half. They missed their first nine tries from long range, an uncustomary performance for a team that has five players with at least 23 3-pointers. Crawford's 3 at the buzzer was a sign of things to come. Wake Forest hit 9 of 13 from behind the arc in the second half.
WAKE FOREST: Despite its record, Wake Forest has been tied or led in the second half in 18 of 24 games. The Demon Deacons scored the first basket of this game but never led again. Their second-half performance from behind the arc bodes well for the stretch run of the season.
SYRACUSE: The Orange still have games against four ranked teams -- Miami, North Carolina, Duke and Clemson -- to improve their resume for a chance at a berth in the postseason. Syracuse entered Sunday's game with an RPI of 38.
Wake Forest: Hosts Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
Syracuse: Hosts North Carolina State on Wednesday night.