SYRACUSE – Davonta Jordan, the University at Buffalo’s 6-foot-2 junior guard, was giving up 4 inches Tuesday night to Syracuse’s best player.
Jordan displayed what has become his trademark defensive tenacity in holding the Orange’s Tyus Battle to 11 points.
The 6-6 Battle, a preseason first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick, entered the game averaging 18.5 points and had averaged 24 in the last two games.
Battle managed to get off just 10 shots while facing perimeter pressure from the Bulls, mostly from Jordan.
“Knowing that he’s an NBA prospect I just locked in,” Jordan said. “I spent days coming into this game watching film, knowing where he gets his buckets, how he scores and what moves he uses to get certain shots off. Being locked in, I just limited his touches. I knew if I could do that, we’d have a good chance of winning.”
Jordan also hit a key 3-pointer with 3:42 left, which gave UB a 62-57 lead.
Jordan scored 10 points and hit two 3-pointers. Jordan’s offense is improving. He shot 18 percent from 3-point range as a freshman and 29 percent as a sophomore. This year he’s up to 36 percent behind the arc.
“He came to us out of Cocoa, Fla., and couldn’t shoot,” said UB coach Nate Oats. “He has lived in the gym these last two offseasons. He has worked to make himself a better shooter.”
“That’s just seeing enough of them go in to have confidence,” Jordan said.
The moment is not too big for Jordan. He played AAU summer ball in Florida with former Kentucky star Kevin Knox, who the New York Knicks made the ninth overall pick in the draft this year. Also on that AAU team were NBAers Jonathan Isaac and Tony Bradley. Jordan played AAU ball against former Oklahoma star Trae Young, now with the Atlanta Hawks. And Jordan played high school ball at one of the top prep schools in the country, Montverde of Orlando, Fla. That school produced NBA stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Playing on a team of stars, Jordan didn’t put up big numbers at Montverde. He still was unsigned in the early summer of 2016 when a UB scholarship popped open. Star point guard Lamonte Bearden decided to transfer to Western Kentucky.
UB turned what could have been a huge blow in losing Bearden into a big plus. Jordan has showed savvy since averaging 15 minutes a game as a freshman.
“That just shows me, OK, I belong on the floor with those kind of guys,” Jordan said. “So just bring your positivity, keep your head straight and go out and play your hardest.”
History of defense: Boeheim’s Syracuse teams have ranked in the top 20 in the nation in defensive efficiency eight of the last 10 years. The Orange ranked fifth last year.
Battle of tempos: UB entered the game ranked 10th in the nation in average length of possession. Syracuse’s average possession length was 283rd in the nation.
Eighty: UB has scored 80 or more points in 34 of its last 47 games. UB tied with Duke last season for second in the nation in 80-point games, behind only Villanova.
No. 5 all time: CJ Massinburg moved into fifth place on the Bulls’ career scoring list. He needed just six points to pass No. 5 Yassin Idbihi, who played from 2003 to 2007. If Massinburg stays on his current scoring pace, he will rise to No. 3 or maybe No. 2 (Rasaun Young) on the career list. Javon McCrea (2,004 points) is UB’s leading scorer.
Looking ahead to MAC: UB’s top threat in the Mid-American Conference is Toledo. The Rockets are off to a 10-1 start, with the loss coming against Wright State, which is ranked No. 146 in the Pomeroy analytics. UB’s non-conference schedule ranks No. 136 in the country, according to Pomeroy. Toledo’s non-conference slate ranks 275th. Kent State, UB’s top competition in the East Division of the MAC, stands 8-2. Kent State’s non-conference schedule ranks 307th.
Rare continuity: It’s the first time since 2000 that Boeheim returns all five starters. It wasn’t expected at the end of last season. Battle attended the NBA combine and was considered likely to leave. But at the last minute, he decided he didn’t like his projected draft position (probably in the second round) and opted to return to school.
On Orange bench: Buffalo’s Howard Washington is a sophomore reserve guard for the Orange. He has seen 10 minutes of action this year. Washington played for Canisius High before first transferring to Florida’s Montverde, one of the top prep schools in the country, and then to an Ontario prep school.
Next: UB visits No. 20 Marquette on Friday in Milwaukee, Wis. Marquette upset No. 16 Wisconsin on Dec. 8, 74-69, in overtime.