FEATURE: In a Numbers Game, Winning is Everything to Battle
Feb. 8, 2011
By Tony Mancuso
First. Second. Second. Third. Third. Third. Third. Third. Third. Fifth. Seventh.
The senior guard is currently in the top seven of 11 different career statistical categories in Penn State basketball history. Before he laces up the blue and white Nikes for the final time later this season, Battle will likely be in the top 15 of an astounding 13 different statistical categories.
Battle has left his mark in Happy Valley in so many different ways, but only one really matters to No. 12.
It would be easy for the Albany, N.Y., native to peer through the stats after a night's work on the hardwood and marvel at what he has accomplished. After all, he is now fewer than 200 points away from passing Jesse Arnelle as Penn State's all-time leading scorer, not to mention being the only Lion player with 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists in his career and the Big Ten's leading scorer among active players.
Numbers of those proportions are elite by anyone's standards. Leading the program in minutes played (4,331), resting second in 30-point games (7) and field goal attempts (1,603), third in scoring (1,977), 3-pointers (270) and 3-point attempts (817), third in field goals (652), third in assists (487), third in free throw attempts (588) and fifth in free throws made (419) and seventh in steals (137) gives you an idea just how unique Battle is.
From the moment he stepped onto the floor in 2007, you could tell Battle wanted to be an elite scorer. He averaged 10.2 tallies as a freshman, 16.7 as a sophomore, 18.5 as a junior and through 22 games this season, 20.5 points per contest.
As a freshman, Battle established himself as a player who wanted the ball in his hands in clutch moments of a basketball game. The long list of epic performances in the waning moments of Nittany Lion basketball games began, one could argue, on Feb. 2, 2008 when Battle's barrage of 3-pointers and 17 points helped the Lions upset No. 7 Michigan State in the Bryce Jordan Center. Not bad for a freshman.
"It feels like a million dollars," he said after defeating Michigan State. "It's just one of those feelings that you can talk about forever. When you are done playing the game and everyone storms the court and are holding people up."
Battle was instrumental in leading Penn State to its first ever tournament championship as a sophomore. The 5-11 guard willed the Nittany Lions to an NIT title and a program-best 27 victories. His game-winning buzzer beater in the Jordan Center to defeat No. 23 Illinois on March 5, 2009 will live in Nittany Lion lore forever.
"When you shoot the basketball, you know whether or not its going in first before anyone else," Battle said following his buzzer beater. "I made the move and whoever tried to step up, they tried to take a charge and I just kind of jumped from left to right. I knew that it was just so soft that it was going in. It was sitting in the back of the rim and just dropped in."
He added another chapter to the storied legacy of clutch baskets with his game-tying 3-pointer in the opening round of the NIT against George Mason. Racing the length of the floor, Battle buried an off balance triple in front of the student section to send the game into overtime. From there, the NIT crown was history.
As a junior, Battle was the only player on a BCS conference team to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals. That brings us to his senior campaign.
He has evolved into a seasoned veteran for head coach Ed DeChellis. Battle's skill set and abilities on the floor have bettered with age, but he is the same fiery competitor that he was when he first stepped onto the Penn State campus in 2007.
Battle will go down as one of the greatest scorers this program has ever seen, regardless if he passes Arnelle to become the school's No. 1 scorer. To think Battle has 42 career 20-point games, seven career 30-point games and 98 outings in double digits puts his scoring efforts into perspective.
But the stat that is a barometer for how competitive No. 12 is rests in his scoring numbers against ranked opponents. Through his career, Battle has averaged north of 16 points per game and has scored in double digits in 17 consecutive games against ranked opponents in his career.
When the big stage lights come on, Battle becomes a different player. He finds another gear when the Nittany Lions clash with a ranked squad, and you can point squarely at his burning desire to win as the reason why.
Throughout his career, Battle has acknowledged the fact that he is not the best shooter in America, but there is little doubt that he is one of the best scorers. He has a knack for willing the Nittany Lions to a victory with improbable shots from in the paint or 30-plus feet away from the basket.
As the Nittany Lions chase a postseason berth in the stretch run of Battle's final season, the senior understands the magnitude of every game left on the schedule. And the numbers are pushed aside.
"Every game we win is not really technically a must win, but we want to win every game," Battle said. "One of the major things you want to do is to protect the home court...Every game we go into in our heads is a must win, we need this one, that's what we say and that's how we play and try to go get them."
Sitting on a cushioned leather chair alongside the floor at Assembly Hall last week, fellow senior Jeff Brooks was looking on as Battle worked through a shooting drill with assistant coach Lewis Preston following the team's shootaround before the Illinois game.
Like anyone, Brooks couldn't help but marvel at Battle's statistical accomplishments, but summed up what his fellow senior is all about to perfection.
"He is not a selfish player," Brooks said. "Guys who think about numbers are selfish players. When you ask him, he is only concerned about winning basketball games. That is when you become a great basketball player, and I think that is what makes Talor so good. He is not worried about records. He is worried about helping us win games."
His stat line does not lie. Battle will leave Penn State as one of the program's all-time best players.
But there is one thing on No. 12's mind as he races through history in the Penn State record book.