Penn State: Junior guard Talor Battle has been outstanding for struggling team
March 7, 2010 10:00 AM
Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
Penn State's Talor Battle reacts in last month's 75-67 loss to Ohio State.
By Ron Musselman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State point guard Talor Battle was one of the best players in the Big Ten Conference this season despite playing on the worst team.
A 6-foot junior, he is the only player in the six BCS conferences to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals.
Battle scored 17 points Saturday in 31 minutes, but missed the final six-plus minutes with cramps as the Nittany Lions closed out their regular season with a 64-60 loss to No. 7 Purdue at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Boilermakers (26-4, 14-4 Big Ten) clinched a share of their first regular-season conference championship since 1996, while the Lions (11-19, 3-15) lost for the seventh time in conference play by six or fewer points.
"With the season we've had and the record we have, we could have easily given up, but we've continued to work hard," Battle said recently.
Battle considered quitting the team in early January, saying he was frustrated. But he regrouped and was the second-leading scorer in the Big Ten through Saturday, averaging 18.8 points.
He was one of several impact point guards in the conference, along with Ohio State's Evan Turner and Michigan State's Kalin Lucas.
"When I step on the court, I play with a certain confidence and swagger," Battle said. "I feel like I'm the best player out there."
Battle was the focal point of opposing defenses this season and Penn State's only double figure scorer. The Lions dropped their first 12 Big Ten games after recording a school-record 27 victories and their first NIT title last year.
Consequently, Battle and No. 11 seed Penn State will be looking to play the role of postseason spoiler at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis this week.
Battle, who led the Big Ten with 14 20-point games, also became just the third player in Penn State history to record 1,000 points, 400 rebounds and 400 assists in his career.
"I think his numbers are pretty good and I think it's even more impressive because he's had to do so much by himself," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "He's had to do an unbelievable balancing act. 'When do I try to take the game over? When do I score? When do I try to make my teammates better and get them the ball?'
"But, he's still scoring pretty well and he's made other guys better by passing the ball to them and getting them shots. And that's been impressive, because he's been the focal point of opposing defenses at times.
"I think he has improved. I think he's playing stronger, his body's gotten bigger."
Battle was named a first-team All-Big Ten pick and team co-MVP last season while establishing himself as one of the Big Ten's top scoring threats and playmakers.
He led the conference in scoring (17.3 ppg) in the regular season a year ago and the country in minutes played (1,422).
Battle's confidence continued to grow this past summer after he led the U.S. World University Games team in scoring (10 ppg) and 3-pointers made (13) on the way to capturing a bronze medal.
Battle ranks seventh in school history with 1,516 points and could catch former All-American Jesse Arnelle (2,138) as the Lions' all-time leading scorer next season -- a mark that has stood since 1955.
"[Battle's] not just a quick guy," Michigan coach John Beilein said.
"He sees everything on the floor. He's a terrific player. I've seen a lot of good point guards, a lot of good guards. He's one of the best."
Battle and his half-brother, Taran Buie, will be reunited next season after previously starring together at Bishop Maginn High School in Albany, N.Y. Buie, a 6-2 senior guard who transferred to State College High School before this season, signed with Penn State in the early period in November.
"Taran is a terrific playmaker and defender," DeChellis said. "And, like his brother, he has a tremendous motor and plays with great energy."
Buie is the highest-rated recruit in Penn State history. He is ranked No. 87 overall in ESPNU's top 100 players. He had offers from Pitt, Maryland, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Marquette, among others.
"Hopefully, he can give us that added dimension we're missing," Battle said.